MenCare+ helps to break cycles of violence in South Africa

A billboard from the MenCare South Africa campaign that reads, "You Show Me How to Treat Girls. You Are My Father."MenCare+ South Africa, launched officially in November, has started to show concrete results among South Africans. The program has implemented fatherhood groups, counseling for men who have used violence, as well as sexual courses on reproductive health for young men and women. The goal is to help men become more responsible fathers and to break cycles of violence that can seem part of everyday life.

South Africa is one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to the number of absent fathers. Two out of every three children grow up without their support. There are many reasons for this, such as labour migration and poverty. Also, it is a common understanding in South Africa that men should only be with their children if they can provide for them – otherwise they choose to be absent.

According to a couple who has recently graduated from a fatherhood group, the activity helped them to change their family dynamic for the better: “We started to treat our sons and daughters more equally and we renewed our appreciation for each other.”

Another couple confirmed that the program is reaching out to South Africans: “We moved from an abusive relationship to one that is free from violence and where we really respect and communicate with each other.”

MenCare+ initiatives in the country also include an advertisement campaign in the Western Cape Province that encourages men to become responsible fathers. Billboards have been installed around train stations, bus stations and shopping malls with the message that being with your child can give both child and father a rewarding and positive energy.

MenCare+ South Africa has been implemented in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice Network and Mosaic and with the support of the City of Cape Town and the Department of Health. The city’s police services are too often confronted with gender based violence and are thankful for initiatives that help to reduce the problem. Meanwhile, the Department of Health has seen how involvement of young fathers during pregnancy and delivery makes for stronger and more equitable relationships, as well as a better approach to prevent vertical transmission of HIV.