The solution to toxic masculinity is healthy masculinity – over 300 000 men have learnt how to be good men, fathers, mentors, and role models through Father A Nation’s programmes.
A father who was planning his family’s murder and his suicide; husbands who beat their partners; and men who abandon and abuse, Craig Wilkinson has seen it all. However, he still believes that true masculinity is a force for good, and that if we can heal and restore men, South Africa (SA) can stop destructive masculine behaviour in its tracks.
Wilkinson is the founder and CEO of Father A Nation, a non-profit company (NPC) that works to encourage positive masculinity in SA. The NPC has been teaching and inspiring boys and men for over 10 years to live with positive, healthy masculinity and stand against any form of abuse.
“Many men and women in SA grow up without the presence of a father or positive male figure. This often results in paternal wounds and destructive beliefs about masculinity, with young men looking to figures such as gangsters, abusers, or absent fathers as role models. This highlights the critical role of a positive male figure in shaping the minds of boys and men in the country,” Wilkinson says.
During 16 Days of Activism from 25 November to 10 December, Wilkinson, who is also a bestselling author and motivational speaker, and his team at Father A Nation will host hundreds of men at dynamic Gender Based Violence (GBV) workshops in hotspots around Gauteng and the Western Cape. The sessions will engage between 30 and 100 men at a time in open and honest conversation and provide training in positive, healthy masculinity.
“Our philosophy at Father A Nation is that if we can heal men, we can heal the world. We focus on working with men to become excellent fathers, mentors, role models and just good men. The solution to GBV is to stop it in its tracks, men are the primary perpetrators of physical and sexual GBV. While it’s critical to create awareness and support victims; ideally, we don’t want victims at all and the way to stop that happening is to stop wounded men from being abusive,” says Wilkinson.
Wilkinson adds that GBV can be stopped in its tracks by teaching, inspiring and healing men. “We work throughout SA with boys and men at schools, universities, in communities and organisations in both the public and private sector. We meet these men where they are at, from taverns to corporations and sports fields. Over 300 000 men have gone through our programmes over the past 10 years, either through soccer tournaments, tavern conversations, dialogues or workshops in communities and camps.”
The sessions always produce lively debate and rich, authentic personal stories of both struggle and triumph. “The engagements are highly effective in helping men to understand what GBV is, examine their own lives and provide them with the knowledge and motivation to turn their lives around. Healthy masculinity never abuses,” adds Wilkinson.
Wilkinson says that in more intimate dialogues he often hears stories of how the organisation has helped change people for the better. “In one case, a man told us he had planned to kill his wife and children before killing himself. We hear from men, who say they were abusers but didn’t know this until they attended a session with us. We have met many women, who thank us for teaching their partners to be better men.”
Wilkinson adds that providing men with a platform to share their struggles and motivation to be better men goes a long way towards helping them to be “a force for good.” A lot of men want to be better men, good husbands, and loving fathers but they have many misconceptions about what masculinity really is.
Addressing the issues that prevent men from being able to conduct themselves as the natural born leaders, builders, and fathers that they are, begins with approaching them with compassion, not blame. Holding men accountable need not take away from this most fundamental need for people to be treated like their feelings matter. “We look deeply into the reasons why men abuse with the understanding that a reason is not an excuse,” concludes Wilkinson.
Visit www.fatheranation.co.za to find out more.