"There is a new man in South Africa!" these are the words that have been reverberating throughout South Africa since the launch of the Brothers for Life campaign in August in Kwamashu.
Brothers for Life is a campaign specifically targeted at men, designed to highlight and communicate around male norms and behaviours that undermine the health and wellbeing of men and their families. Key issues the campaign sets out to address include HIV prevention (multiple and concurrent partnerships, transactional sex, correct and consistent condom use); alcohol and substance abuse, the role of men in the prevention of mother t o child transmission, gender based violence, men's sexual and reproductive health, men's general health as well as promotion of family and community values .
Addressing the 10 000 people who attended the launch event, the Deputy Minister of Health , Dr. Molefi Sefularo, described the campaign as "a positive addition to other initiatives by men who subscribe to the human rights principles that are enshrined in our Constitution". The event was also attended by the Deputy Chairperson of SANAC, Mark Heywood, former Director General of Health, Thami Mseleku and many other government and civil society representatives.
The launch of Brothers for Life was preceded by an extensive social mobilisation drive co-ordinated by DramAide and other partners in the communities of KwaMashu, Inanda and Ntuzuma. "It was very encouraging to see and experience the passion with which the community members took up the challenge of engaging men and women in their communities on the values of Brothers For Life" says Mandla Ndlovu, the campaign's program manager.
A number of campaign partners who participated in the development of Brothers for Life also took time to participate in the broad launch activities and these included Khomanani , TAC , RHRU , NEW START , RIGHT TO CARE, Mindset Health , Footballers for Life, , Matchboxology, One Voice, DramaidE and Soul City.
The launch event was covered extensively in the media, notably by newspapers such as Isolezwe, Citizen, Business Day, Daily News, Sunday World, Die Burger, Volksbald, Beeld, PlusNews, Health-e, Daily Sun , Sowetan and Sowetan Sunday World .
The campaign is a joint initiative of the South African National AIDS Council Men's Sector (SANAC), the Department of Health, USAID/PEPFAR, Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa, Sonke Gender Justice and more than 40 civil society partners.
The campaign promotes the uptake of testing services by men as part of its broader aim of engaging men on their reproductive sexual health and their general health. At the launch event almost 300 people took up the challenge to know their HIV status, 70% of those who tested were men.
"Brothers" in the Media
The Brothers for Life launch television and radio advertisement aired on all four free to air television channels, as well as on a number of radio stations in five languages. Full page advertisements have been running in the print media, highlighting the values that the campaign seeks to promote and to get the nation talking about issues affecting men, their partners and their communities.
Metro FM , 5-FM, SAFM, East Coast Radio, Ukhozi FM, Gagasi FM, Umhlobo Wenene, Ligwalagwala FM; Heart, Kaya FM, Lesedi FM, Thobela FM and Motsweding FM and SABC Channel Africa have all have been running Brothers for Life talk shows during prime time, interviewing men from different organisations across the country on the meaning of the Brothers for Life movement. The radio talk shows have had the impact of making people understand the values that the campaign is seeking to promote within the context of the "new man".
The campaign has been positively received and is getting men and women talking and acting on the issues raised by the campaign and in the media. As an example, a "brother" who called in to a radio station during a talk show spoke about how he had decided to stop beating his wife after hearing the messages of the campaign.
Judging by the feedback from a number the radio talk shows, the campaign has sparked nationwide interest, with messages of support coming in via radio, the Brothers for Life website as well as telephone calls. On the Brothers for Life Website more than 800 men and women have left messages of support during the first month. Men and women have been giving their opinions about the campaign and have included suggestions on how they can become involved in the campaign. Mbali Ndlovu writes "Hi there, I am a 22 year old black female that has never been this excited about a campaign ever. Too many families are starving for real men. Finally men from all walks are taking their positions.. go for it ..I love
you all my brothers ...God bless"
Starting the fire
Brothers for Life activities have started in earnest in many activities across the country. Lesedi Lechabile, an NGO based in Welkom, launched the campaign with a men's camp which had a strong focus on issues around men's health and the role of men in PMTCT. Mothusimpilo, a partner based in Carletonville, a mining town in the south of Gauteng, launched the campaign in partnership with the National Union of Mineworkers. The Aids Consortium which has a network of hundreds of community based organisations is embarking on community dialogues aimed at addressing issues affecting men and the involvement of men in curbing HIV. The Gauteng Department of Education has had sessions with male teachers under the "Brothers for Life" banner, in sessions facilitated by campaign partners Sonke Gender Justice.
"Partners must be on the lookout for the Men's wellness toolkit due for completion at the end of October" says Desmond Lesejane, deputy director at Sonke Gender Justice. The toolkit will cover issues relating to men's sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention, parenting, budgeting for the family, PMTCT and other key wellness areas.