By  Amanda Coetzee

The United Nations’ global ‘HeForShe’ campaign has been launched in Mbombela in Mpumalanga. The aim of this campaign is to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential.

This campaign was launched at the UN in September 2014 by the Executive Director of UN Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Since the start of this campaign hundreds of thousands of men from around the world, including heads of state, chief executive officers, universities and many others from all walks of life, have committed to gender equality.

In Mpumalanga, the MEC for Safety and Security, Vusi Shongwe, says there is still a long way to go for men to learn not to abuse women.

“Crime also contributes to the abuse of women. When you talk about rape, most of the people that are raped, are women. And we are saying it must come to an end. If we see them wearing miniskirts, and you go and abuse them as some taxi people are doing, that should be discouraged. A real man will just appreciate that women, not abuse her.”

In South Africa, the UN have partnered with the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference to launch the “HeForShe” campaign. Catholic Priest, Father Simangaliso Mkhatshwa, says abusing women is directly against the constitution of South Africa.

Mkhatshwa says, “First of all we need to acknowledge the contribution of the United Nations Women initiating the “HeforShe” campaign. It’s not the first time that the United Nations has shown concern for the oppression of women, especially gender based violence. We had a conference in Beijing that focused on that. We also had a World Council of Churches, setting aside a whole decade to focus on women’s issues. Particularly the way in which they are disadvantaged, oppressed, simply because they are women, they are girls. In South Africa we have a government that certainly through its constitution is committed to the equality of all the people of this country. Which therefore means that within that context women’s discrimination for whatever reasons is completely against our constitution.”
The representative of UN Women, Dr Auxilia Ponga, says abuse against women does not only lead to wasting money on various levels but also leaves scars, not only on those being abused, but down a long line which becomes a vicious circle.

“The KPMG report that was done I think last year or two years ago, says South Africa loses R28 billion to R42 billion of its GDP to gender based violence. So what does that mean? You have the police that have to attend to these issues, when there’s domestic violence. So instead of attending to other crimes, they’re drawn into gender based violence. But you also have hospitals and health centres that must begin to treat women who are battered. That is money that should be used for HIV/Aids, for example or other illnesses. But more than that I think we are raising young people, children who are growing in our home where violence is the norm. And they think that’s the way to grow up and behave. So we will have a cycle of violence for many more years to come unless we deal with it,” says Ponga.

Mcebo Nkosi of Kanyamazane is a former inmate. He was convicted for different crimes including rape and robbery. He has turned over a new leaf. He says living a good clean life is something that every person should aspire to do.

Nkosi explains , “I’m an ex-convict, sentenced to 23 years in prison for doing different crimes. Crime like robbery, rape, housebreaking and assault. So while I was there in prison, life was difficult and  crime doesn’t pay. And I found out it’s too painful to learn the hard way. When you grow up, you need to listen to your parents and you need to follow the right way, so that you can no longer be in trouble. While I was there in prison, I stayed for 10 years there, so I realised that life is tough. There are many horrible things that happen in prison. When you are in prison you don’t own anything.”