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Remember, Woman, Remember…

Headmaster’s Assembly – 6 September 2019

Dear KES Community

Please see extracts from my assembly this morning.

I trust my message resonates with all of you.

The gathering of boys around our female staff was extremely emotional and powerful.

 

Gentlemen,

This week there has been a great deal of media coverage about two topics

  • Xenophobia – Attacks on foreign nationals
  • Violence against women – highlighted by the deaths of female boxer, Leighandre Jegels and UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, as well as the kidnapping of a young preschool girl.

We as men and an all-boys school need to recognise this as a great concern and show that as good men we stand against these heinous crimes and attitudes.

I have spoken on countless occasions about how we treat the female staff at School – and this extends beyond our School boundaries – we need to revive our thinking and take responsibility for our own action and in particular act against those men who don’t know how to behave appropriately!

 

I share two articles with you:

  1. Opinion: Gents we need to rewire our thinking of women

In many cases, the path to a woman’s grave starts with loose talk by and among men in the absence of women. Sexual harassment and intimidation often start with mean and hateful things that men say to women, writes Tshepo Sefotlhelo.

The World Health Organisation in its last report in 2016, ranked South Africa fourth (behind Honduras, Jamaica and Lesotho) among the countries where women are more likely to be murdered.

According to the 2017/18 crime statistics, 2 930 women were murdered in South Africa over that period. Africa Check, the fact checking agency, reports that 15.2 of every 100 000 adult women were killed.

In many cases, the path to a woman’s grave starts with loose talk by and among men in the absence of women. Sexual harassment and intimidation often start with mean and hateful things that men say to women. Many times, it ends, as it has to many women who have dominated the media space in the last few days, with murder.

We have to want to think better of them, because they are and deserve so much more from us. For me personally, I find it difficult to carry on as if nothing is wrong, I am disturbed and shaken to the core, because we are hurting and killing our wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters.

For far too long men and society have placed the burden of change on women. We have told women what to wear, how to interact with men, where to be and what time they should be there but hardly ever said anything about how we (men) speak about women and, importantly what we do to women and their bodies.

To be clear, it will demand a lot more than talk to break the endemic cycle of violence and murder against women, talking, I believe, is an important starting point.

 

  1. #RealMenDont: Why men in SA need to take action against gender-based violence

The #RealMenDont campaign is about the coming together of South African men, asking them to raise their voices to protect the women and children of our country. The black and white images represent a ‘no grey area’. “It’s either black or white, you protect us, or you don’t and there is no in-between,” says Nuriyah Gallow, the initiator of #RealMenDont. 

“We shouldn’t be telling our daughters to be careful, we should be raising our sons to be accountable, understand consent, understand boundaries and respect people – especially women,” he says. “We say ‘rape needs to stop’ forgetting that someone actually has to do something – that someone being men.”

“Instead of condemning feminism, take a second to learn about it and understand it,” Liebenberg says. “When women talk about their experience, listen with intent to understand and learn. Beyond that, simply respect and protect women instead of raping and abusing them.”

Real men aren’t passive bystanders to a societal problem that they are responsible for. Stand up against violence against women by sharing your #RealMenDont statement.

 

At this stage the boys gathered around our female staff in a show of support and to let them know how special they are to us!

 

During this symbolic moment I read the following poem:

Remember, Woman, you were born life giver, miracle creator, magic maker.

You were born with the heart of a thousand mothers, open and

fearless and sweet.

You were born with the fire of Queens and conquerors,

warrioress blood you bleed.

You were born with the wisdom of sages and shamans, no wound can you not heal.

You were born the teller of your own tale, before none should you kneel.

You were born with an immeasurable soul reaching out past

infinity.

You were born to desire with passion, abandon, and to name your own destiny.

Remember, woman, remember you are more than you can see.

Remember, Woman, remember you are loved endless/y.

Remember, Woman, your power, and grace, the depth of your deep sea heart.

Never forget you are woman, divine, as you have been from the start.

                                                                                                                                “Remember, Woman, by Reese Leyva