On the eleventh day of our South African trip, we returned from Swaziland to Johannesburg, to visit Men as Partners. This is a program that looks at engaging men in reducing gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.
They go into the townships and recruit men and run workshops on gender. They engage both men and women in constant dialogue and use peer systems to spread their message. They also facilitate workshops on “what it means to be a young man” and a program where older men mentor younger men as positive role models.
Being able to participate in their street interventions was amazing. Seeing someone being able to attract crowds of 20-30 people in the space of half an hour just by mingling at a market stall and showing people a book with pictures of genitalia infected with STDS. They target the streets which are at most risk of gender-based violence. While the crowds gather, they identify those that are the most interested and recruit them to be peer educators in their own areas.
What shocked me however as their AIDS policy, entitled ABY. Abstinence, Behaviour Change and Youth… What was worse was that they only promote condom use to over 18 year olds through “condocans” and “spazashops”. It was unclear whether they thought that it wasn’t appropriate to raise awareness amongst young people or how much pressure had been applied by their main funders USAID, who won’t fund anything which promotes condom use.