Working with men
SaveAct works with men simply because it believes that men are part of the solution. In many parts of South Africa , particularly in the rural areas, unequal power relations persist between men and women which sees many women both neglected and abused. Normalising gender relations requires not only that we empower women to take control of their lives, but it also means giving men the opportunity to address their own experience of disempowerment – often economic – to become respected and functional members of the community.
Vezokuhle savings group: a win-win situation
As in most areas in which SaveAct works, Savings and Credit groups are dominated by women. However, men are not expressly excluded from SCGs and in the Table Mountain area, one group – known as Vezokuhle -- is made up entirely of men and some boys. A positive mentoring relationship has developed within the group between its older and younger members.
The group’s origins reflect the realities of people’s lives: Mr Dladla, who learnt about the SCGs from his wife, founded Vezokuhle by recruiting four boys of school-going age who had no fathers. The rest of the group is made up of 13 older men.
Mr Dladla recruited the boys because he noticed their potential and wanted to help.
“I appreciated the fact that they were so disciplined and always attended school. I saw how the youth in the community is reckless with their lives. I knew some of the fathers of these young men. I believe that if the culture of saving is instilled at the young age, there is a better future for these young boys,” he said.
The combination of old and young members has produced some beneficial consequences for the group. Said Mr Dladla:
One of the younger members is Grade 7 learner Sizwe. He explains what his SCG membership means to him:
“My aunt gives me pocket money every week. I save R2 daily which amounts to R10 a week. I then save my money for four weeks. My aunt gives me the balance if I am unable to make R50 to put into the savings group. I am very happy to be in the group as I have learnt a lot from these men. I enjoy saving money for myself and watching it grow every month. With my share out I will buy myself Christmas clothes and give the balance to my aunt.”
Lindokuhle is a Grade 12 student in 2011. He is intending to study a Science Foundation course (bridging programme) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). These are his thoughts:
“I joined Vezokuhle after Mr Dladla has invited me and explained to me what it is all about. I got excited about the idea, then I become a member. The money that I save I get from my mother. I will use my share-out to pay for my registration at university. It helped me to be part of this group as I usually had to take a loan for transport to school. I also help my grandmother to pay for her burial society from the loan I get from the SCG. I enjoy being a member of the SCG with these old men as they help us to stay away from trouble”.
As is reflected in the comments from Mr Dladla and the younger members, there is an effective synergy at work in the savings group which is helping to inculcate not only a culture of responsible saving, but to bridge the generation gap and provide mentorship to a generation growing up without appropriate male role models. – Didi Makhanya.