Sona Mahendra

Amadoda – challenging masculinity

Sona Mahendra

Sona Mahendra

By Sona Mahendra

Concepts such as femininity, womanhood and other issues directly impact a young woman’s sense of self growing up in this patriarchal world, especially concepts of virginity, ‘purity’ and honour. Feminist discussions on these topics invite young women to participate and provide a platform where we can voice the challenges and obstacles that we face and how contemporary and orthodox definitions of the topics listed above stifles our actions and voices.

These discussions have been extremely helpful for young women such as myself to help define ourselves where our immediate social circles may be dominated by male interests, thoughts and actions. Much of this conversation has also targeted the ideas of masculinity and manhood and how these have come to be exhibited in our societies past and present in an oppressive manner towards women.

Many women feminists have also approached this topic in an academic way, deconstructing the masculine identity very effectively.  I was eager to find out if there was a space where young men were given the opportunity to deliberate, discuss and debate these ideas, a lot of which have great relevance to the creation of their identity. I was looking for a platform where men can voice their opinions in this regard and watch them deconstruct historical and societal notions on manhood and create their own definition of this identity.

It was to my great delight to have found a new youth movement that has dedicated itself to filling in this vacuum and addressing issues of masculinity and ‘maleness within the context of South Africa, that is, addressing issues surrounding young South African men.

AmaDODA is a student-based social movement at the University of Cape Town. It is keen on targeting topics and issues affecting young males and encouraging them to be better educated and sincere to the world around them, which not only makes them better allies for women’s rights movements, but it also creates disciplined, conscientious and moral individuals and citizens. The conversation that they have started is important because it encourages men to question their privileges and realities.

To find out more about the movement, I spoke briefly to one of AmaDODA’s co-founders, Dalisu Jwara, who highlighted certain aspects of this project.

Sona. M: What purpose is AmaDODA trying to serve in the community?

Dalisu.J: Amadoda aspires to raise men of value. We have noticed the dearth in good male role models in society, and we are trying to create a positive change in our generation.

SM: What main issues will AmaDODA be tackling?

DJ: Issues we are tackling are leadership, values based manhood and of course, the contentious gender debate. We have created a platform where people are engaging on issues of masculinity and the possible effects of such a movement as perceived by feminists.

SM: Will AmaDODA address the issue of gender inequality?

DJ: Not sure on gender inequality, I think indirectly we may be tackling this. But this is not our sole purpose. We are saying, we see that as men we are perceived in a negative light, we have left many homes, fatherless, how can we be better and useful “men” in society. And I guess this begins by recognizing that men and women must co-exist, we are both equal, but face different issues.

SM: What are you doing right now to carry out your vision? 

DJ: We have formed a partnership with international women’s organization V-day, and are bringing an initiative called One Billion Rising to UCT. We are also taking part in Cape Talk/Primedia, 16 day activism campaign in December, and are scaling up nationally-we are looking to launch in JHB and in the Eastern Cape.

SM: How does one became part of this project? 

DJ: Like our Facebook page, join in on the discussions. We don’t have a formal process. One can purchase a T-shirt to show that they support what we stand for.

SM: Is AmaDODA open only to men?

DJ: No it isn’t. If one identifies with our ideals, they are free to be part of the movement. We welcome criticism (as it stimulates debate) and open, frank conversations between men and women.

To read more about AmaDODA and its origins, click: http://uct.ac.za/mondaypaper/?id=9664

You can find them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/amadodamovement) where I would encourage the youth, especially men, to follow and join the important conversation they have started.

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