November 25 marked the launch of 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, a campaign aimed at challenging violence against women and girls. This becomes the only period where violence against women and girls becomes a subject of discussion, until December 10. This is not the first and definitely not the last time that, this time of the year, we are reminded of what’s an obvious role of men in society – taking care of our women and children!
This is a date that has been set aside to highlight the wrath that gets delivered on our women and children, but does it really serve its purpose? Are we really, really committed to making a difference? Does it have to be only for this specific period, every year, that this subject becomes so important and attracts attention? Are we going to continue experiencing violence against women and children, even during the specific period of its awareness, on one side and then shout awareness on the other side? I honestly think each and every one of us needs to take a stand, a firm one at that, to root out this barbaric behavior against our women and children. Let us all nip any engagements or activities of gender-based violence and brutal acts against our women and children in the bud. We also have to out the perpetrators because we know them. In our strange society, victims of gender-based violence are always spoken about, but you seldom hear anything said about the perpetrators, who are also known. We need to make a change and do better.
I always look at sport people in general and football people in particular as the most powerful gang. You can go to political rallies, you will find 99% of those congregants are football people. The same thing happens in our churches, taverns, academic institutions, work places and everywhere you can possibly go. This goes to show the power and influence football has and therefore if there’s one vehicle that can be used to transport any important message – it has to be football. It is on that basis that I’m making this passionate plea to all the football fanatics out there – especially those from organised branches – to take some load off our government and lead the way. Let us be the change we want to see because, at the end of the day, the buck stops with us. We are the ones who are exposed to these gruesome acts of violence against our women, sisters, mothers, aunts and girls. Let us not just talk about gender-based violence but take action. When we start treating all the women and girls in our lives as our own, we transfer that same caring treatment to every other woman and girl child out there, and very little will go wrong in our society. If football people are united and look after one another, I doubt there’s anyone out there who can do better than us. I hope just because the 16 days put aside for this important challenge lapses tomorrow (Thursday), it will not be the end of the awareness campaign. This should be an all-year-round event because women and girls deserve love, respect and protection every day and not just for 16 out of 365 days.
As men, let us start to use our positions of influence to change the narrative that women are sex objects. Let women and girls be respected for who and what they are. The same love and respect you have for yours is the same amount the next woman and girl child needs and deserves. This tendency of using unemployed and desperate women for sexual favours in exchange for employment has to stop. Yes, don’t look away, I am talking to you! Stop using your position to inflict pain on desperate women because you surely wouldn’t want your own woman or daughter put through that same experience. It starts with us, football people, to make this change and stop with the lip service. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change,” goes a verse in Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.
I’m pleading with all of you, football lovers, let us play our part in denouncing this scourge against our women and girls. Let’s stop talking and just act by demonstrating the right qualities to the next generation of men, while they are still young, so that they unlearn all the wrong behaviours that are, sadly, socially acceptable in our communities.
The Coronavirus pandemic, just like gender-based violence, will need us to act rather than talk. We all miss going to the stadiums to watch live football, but we continue disobeying the very same rules that will see us going back to our normal lives sooner. We don’t want to practice the safety regulations, yet we hope to be allowed back into the stadiums soon. Some of us have lost a number of loved ones due to this pandemic and we all know the impact it has had. We have to start doing better in terms of dealing with this pandemic, take responsibility and realise that we’ve come a long way. Those of us who are still alive, let’s not drop the ball now, as it matters the most. Let’s protect ourselves by protecting others. We can all make a difference as football people. The only reason we are still watching football on television is because we’ve failed ourselves. Let’s change that so that we can get back to the stadiums.
Hlompho Kekana has been nominated, for the second time, for the Puskas Award. The Mamelodi Sundowns captain continues to defy the odds. As South Africans, we need to stop congratulating and celebrating him on social media only but start voting. That’s what’s going to help him win the award. If Africans don’t vote for him, why should the rest of the world even care? Also, this isn’t about Hlompho or Sundowns only, it is about our country and continent at large. Partisanship isn’t applicable this time around. Let’s do the right things, protect our women and children, vote for Hlompho’s goal and stay safe from COVID-19 by taking heed of the precautionary measures. Make that change!