Sonke Gender Justice Network
Mission and Vision
Sonke was established in August 2006. Its mission is to “work across Africa to strengthen government, civil society and citizen capacity to support men and boys to take action to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and Aids. Sonke’s vision is “a world in which men, women and children can enjoy equitable, healthy and happy relationships that contribute to the development of just and democratic societies”.
As of October 2012 Sonke employs 75 staff based in five offices: Cape Town and Gugulethu in the Western Cape, Braamfontein in Gauteng and Agincourt in rural Mpumalanga, and a small advocacy office in Geneva, Switzerland. Sonke works in all of South Africa’s nine provinces and engages men and women from all walks of life: youth in schools, refugees and migrants, religious and traditional leaders, inmates and ex-inmates, government officials, police and prison guards, civil society activists, and representatives of the media, private sector and trade unions.
Sonke also serves as global co-chair and Africa regional coordinator for the MenEngage Alliance. In this capacity we support work in an additional 15-20 countries in Southern, East, Central and West Africa.
Sonke recognizes that changing deeply held beliefs about gender roles and relations requires comprehensive, multifaceted strategies that reach large numbers of people deeply and frequently, and convey simultaneously a sense of urgency and a sense of optimism about the possibility that men can play a positive and engaged role in bringing about gender justice.
As a result, Sonke’s work is organised into five ambitious, overlapping and interrelated work areas:
- Training and Community Mobilisation
- Communications and Strategic Information
- Policy, Advocacy and Research
- International Programmes
- Operations and Organisational Development.
Sonke’s work and approach draws on and is inspired by decades of feminist activism. Against a backdrop of pervasive men’s violence against women, Sonke believes that men can be mobilised to play an important role in achieving gender equality, preventing domestic and sexual violence and contributing to a society in which all are healthier, happier and more able to access and enjoy their rights. This conviction is predicated on a firm belief that men also benefit in real and tangible ways from a world with less rigid and less violent models of manhood and, as a result, have a direct investment in ending violence against women and in promoting gender equality.
Sonke’s staff of seventy people and dozens of community volunteers reach over twenty thousand men each year with workshops that encourage men to reflect on the costs of patriarchy for themselves and the women in their lives and to take action in their homes and communities to end the violence and create a more just and equitable world. Through our media work we reach many millions more each week. In addition, we also work with governments, UN agencies and international NGOs to help them integrate work with men for gender equality into their policies and programmes and day to day activities. Through our work with governments, UN agencies and our many partner organisations in South Africa and the rest of Africa, we indirectly reach many millions more.
Together with research partners from universities in South Africa, the US and the UK, Sonke has evaluated its work to assess its impact. In the weeks following participation in Sonke’s One Man Can Campaign, 50% of participants reported taking action to address acts of gender-based violence in their community, 25% of participants accessed HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), and 61% reported increasing their use of condoms. More than 4 out of 5 participants also reported having subsequently talked with friends or family members about HIV and AIDS, gender and human rights.
Sonke’s strength is that we reach many different kinds of beneficiaries, sometimes many times with reinforcing messages. Sonke reaches 25,000 men and women a year with workshops and face to face interactions. Our research indicates that Sonke programme participants then talk with their peers and other community members and assume that each participant reaches an additional 5-10 people. This translates into another 125,000-250,000 indirect beneficiaries. In addition, our radio shows reach another 8.5-10 million people a week through radio and we reach up to 5 million with print media articles. We also work with dozens of organisations in South Africa and across the region. In the region alone, we work with and provide technical and financial support to fifteen MenEngage country networks, each itself a coalition of many organisations. When UN agencies or national governments integrate our priorities into laws, policies and national plans, as has happened with UNAIDS Agenda for Accelerated Country Action on Women, Girls and HIV and AIDS, or the South African 2012-2016 National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS and the DSD policy on families, we reach many additional millions. We learned recently that 90% of United NationsFPA country offices have now implemented work with men and boys, in part because of our advocacy and capacity building. Similarly, our advocacy efforts to challenge harmful laws and initiatives, such as the Traditional Courts Bill mean that millions of people are not negatively affected by harmful government initiatives.