Jafta is a volunteer at Abalingani Gender Program in Soweto, running awareness campaigns and workshops on gender issues. A turning point in his life came when he attended a Men As Partners® (MAP) workshop seven years ago. Here, Jafta speaks about his transformation and his new views on relationships and fatherhood…
I was invited to attend a workshop by someone I knew casually in the township. When you’re not working, you get bored sitting in the township day in and day out. This wasn’t the first time I’d received this sort of an invite, but in the past I had always disregarded them. But this time, when I arrived there, I found women expressing the pains of living in abusive relationships and men who had changed, speaking about it. I was touched.
Before I was exposed to these workshops, I lived a very reckless life. I can’t tell you how many times I have wronged people. I’ve been stabbed, shot, imprisoned for different crimes, including beating and taking women against their will. I didn’t care for humanity. When I got to the workshop, my eyes were opened, especially about the impact of my behavior.
I never knew my father growing up. He lived far away, and I grew up in a feminine environment with women: my mom, sisters, and aunts. Without a male role model, I became rebellious and got into drugs.
But after MAP I changed. When I’d come home and find my girlfriend doing the washing, I’d take it from the drying line and iron it. And people questioned why I’d do that. They started talking…calling me “udlile,” meaning I had been bewitched and become a dumb person who can’t distinguish between men’s and women’s jobs. Also, when I would clean the house with the door open, my girlfriend would be embarrassed and offer to do it herself, because she worried about what people would say. But eventually, she grew to be comfortable with that. In the process, I lost friends who did not agree with the way I acted. I am glad, because I now have new friends, people whose values and lifestyles I prefer. I feel sad, though, for losing my old friends, because they are the people that I wish could change. I know the problem is with them, not with me and my partner.
Now, I take care of our child, taking the baby to the clinic on my own. I’ve also managed to go back to some of the people I’ve hurt and apologize. To me, doing right and educating other young men about violence against women is a healing process. It makes me think and confront my own demons.
I am not like the old Jafta. Before, if I disagreed with a person, I used to sort it out through violence—but not anymore. I have improved my communications skills; now I talk if there is something that I don’t like. My partner and I sit down and look at what we can do better to change the situation. For example, we have different parenting styles; she is stricter, punitive, and more authoritative with the child, and I am patient. I often offer to help feed the baby.
But most of all, the personal transformation has given me confidence in myself.
Jafta and his child