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Matt York

Department of Government and Politics,

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University College Cork, Ireland

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Khanyisa Phase 2 gets green light!

September 20, 2017

Khanyisa is an initiative of the Khuphuka Project in rural KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Khuphuka (meaning ‘to rise up’ in isiZulu) works at the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, adopting a community development approach to the provision of primary healthcare services, orphaned and vulnerable child protection, youth work, information and advocacy services and food security. The organization observed that the young men of the community were not engaging in health promotion/education interventions whilst as a group simultaneously exhibiting the highest incidence of risk behaviours, and as a response developed the Khanyisa programme (meaning ‘to enlighten’ in isiZulu). Khanyisa is a transformative education project, until now working solely with young Zulu men and boys (aged 15-25) from the premise that masculine identities can be explored and understood, and are open to change.

 

Khanyisa have facilitated a number of one year programmes of workshops with groups of young men in wilderness settings, partnering with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. The focus of the workshops is Ubuntu, the Southern African concept of interdependence- that we can only be human in relation to others, and that through knowing this deeply, it becomes natural to care for and be of service to others.  It is best expressed through the Nguini proverb ‘Umuntu ngu-umuntu ngobantu’ meaning ‘I am because we are’ which describes the sense of collective solidarity that characterises Ubuntu through love, caring, tolerance, respect, empathy, accountability and responsibility.  Using Ubuntu as a core theme, the leaders facilitate exercises which explore subjects such as masculinity, inequality, gender, violence and HIV/AIDS with an emphasis upon personal and group reflection and transformation.  

 

It was the research conducted on the Khanyisa programmes (see paper) that indicated the strong potential of love as socially (and politically) transformative, sowing the seeds for the 'Love and AlterGlobalisation' project.

 

A key lesson learned through the study was that although such culturally appropriate transformative education approaches can result in welcome transformation in the gender identities of young male participants, to engage in such work in isolation, without complementary programmes being facilitated in other parts of the community can result in a significant lack of understanding and a negative backlash from the wider communal field.  The internalisation of new schemas and the subsequent adaption of new behaviours was widely seen as a deviation to the cultural gender norms and therefore a threat to the status quo, sometimes leading to further marginalisation of this group and communal pressure to revert to the default communal values and ideologies.  

 
It is therefore essential that such efficacious approaches are integrated into a much broader whole community approach in order to achieve the critical mass required to produce lasting social change.  In order for the sustainable and long term transformation required to create more equitable gender norms within society, changes in individual masculine identities are not in themselves enough.  


It is with this in mind that we are delighted to announce that funding is in place for the Khanyisa Phase 2 starting in October 2017, which will work with groups of both boys/young men and girls/young women, separately at first, and then bringing the groups together in an attempt to integrate the learning across genders within the community.  The facilitators and participants will also organise a number of youth imbizos over the 12 month period, in schools, community halls and on site at the Khuphuka Project in order to share the Khanyisa methodology on a far wider level. 

 

Our aim is that this programme and the research generated through it will both further the knowledge base within the field of transformative education, and also allow access to this important work to an ever wider circle of girls/young women and boys/young men, establishing a youth movement informed by Ubuntu and committed to positive social action.

 

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