Gender workshop aims to heal Bonteheuwel

A three-day gender reconciliation workshop, aimed at healing the impact of violence, patriarchy and gender injustice, was welcomed by Bonteheuwel activists and leaders.

The workshop was hosted by GenderWorks, an organisation that believes that gender issues lie at the heart of many social problems, including domestic violence, gangsterism, violent crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and rape.

Members of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, and community leaders were among those who attended the three-day workshop, from Monday August 14 to Wednesday August 16.

In a document in which GenderWorks describes its work, it states that “in every major culture, from parliament to parish, from bedroom to boardroom, irrespective of race, class, religion, or sexual orientation, destructive social and cultural conditioning relating to gender and sexuality has created a ‘gender apartheid’ that influences how we relate to one another as women and men”.

The organisation also makes it clear that their work is not about “men versus women, but justice versus injustice”.

They say both men and women are affected, and each needs the other to come together and discover a mutual harmony, joy and compassion as a human family for true and complete healing through gender reconciliation.

Gender reconciliation draws on the truth and reconciliation principles and practices to empower women and men to jointly confront dysfunctional gender and sexuality conditioning without blame or shame, and collaborate to create an environment and society of mutual respect, trust, and ubuntu.

Soraya Salie, chairperson of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, said being part of the workshop was a healing process.

“Part of our healing is to open the wound so that it can heal. This workshop is a process of healing and transformation and allowed us a rare opportunity to witness and listen attentively with compassion to the indepth pain that lingers very deep In the hearts of men and women from childhood days until present.

“This is much needed process for healing our community, therefore we asked the facilitators to please come back to our area. Hopefully the next time around it won’t be such a struggle to get participants to attend, especially men from our diverse religious fraternity and other organisations, of which some leaders sadly declined the invitation,” Ms Salie said.

Pastor Leslie Lambert said the workshop was well presented and more people should attend it “to help us build a better society”.

He added: “Sometimes people live in the same house, but they do not communicate. Here we learnt skills to help us improve on things like communication – and it is sustainable. The facilitators are really clued up and have compassion for what they do.”

GenderWorks is linked to Gender Reconciliation International, and its international programme officer, Zanele Khumalo, said the outcome of the Bonteheuwel workshop was positive.

Said Ms Khumalo: “There has been a healing in the form of women shifting their attitude toward men, like the perceptions that men do not care, they don’t get involved and don’t have feelings.

“Men said they now have a better understanding and compassion for women’s experiences, and their struggle and pain. The workshop shifted the perspective for men too. It helped to transform their way of thinking. They now want to be better men for their community, their wives and be better fathers.”