Perdeby sat down with the founder of the award winning NGO Girls and Football SA, Jos Dirkx, to discuss their newly released practical and conceptual guide book Tackled, which focuses on working with boys and young men to decrease gender-based violence. The book includes voices from leading sports men and women such as Springbok Siya Kolisi and Director of the Football Magic Foundation, Fran Hilton-Smith.
What motivated you to write a book based on battling gender-based violence?
I had founded an award winning NGO called “Girls and Footbal SA”.We focus on the development of girls and young women through sport, media and education, and we worked solely in girls only spaces. That means we worked really hard to provide girls with health information, with a place to play sports and we did that [with an all female team] because, often times girls don’t actually have access to that safe space. What we realised though as we were doing the work, is that there is a need to work with boys and young men as well. We often talk about how empowered girls are or rather, we often talk about how girls need empowering but at the same time we have to find a way to also provide the opportunity for empowerment for boys. That’s why we wrote Tackled, which really looks at providing boys with a similar safe space to talk about sexuality, bullying and gangsterism. That is really what motivated me. So the book was inspired by work that I was already doing and finding ways to improve that work.
How can this book help stop gender-based violence?
It was never our intention [or] our directive to assume that the book would end gender-based violence. But what it does do, [is] it provides a first step and a first approach to talking about gender-based violence, bringing both genders to the table and helping us understand how we can collectively improve and [communicate].
What do you think are the main gender-based barriers at the moment?
I mean it is hard to say. From a global perspective, every country, every culture, and every tradition faces its different challenges. If we look at a common thread, […] a lot of it does come down to the language that we chose to use to describe boys and girls. […] The dictionary holds 220 derogatory words for women, and only 20 for men. That is obviousle a huge, huge difference. We need to find a way to bridge that gap and to [assess] [the] roles language plays. We do focus a bit on language in the book, and I chose to do that because I think it is culturally relevant.We really show people that those small changes, those small choices that we are making actually have a really big effect. I also think that we do not necessarily take enough responsibility for the [messages] that we [send to] young people. We have a huge responsibility to provide accurate health information to boys and girls and to […] [educate as to what will] […] affect [them]. I think that is really a starting point from a global perspective and also from a South African perspective.
What do you think the role of sport leaders, coaches and community leaders should be in stopping gender-based violence?
Community leaders have a massive […]role to play. Unfortunately a lot of [issues stem from] […] our own understanding of gender and how we talk to boys and girls. We tried to make that a really practical part of the bookthrough the workshops and also through a few of the chapters that […] dissect why we make some of the choices that we do. As a coach, a leader, a teacher, [or] a community leader, you have such an important responsibility. A lot of it comes down to the people that are serving as role models [and] the people that are really […] leaders for young people. I think that is where we can’t underestimate the value that a balanced, strong coach can have on a child’s life. One of our contributors to the book is Springbok Rugby player Siya Kolisi. […]He said a wonderful thing about just giving people time […].You would be amazed at the way that giving a child time and showing them that you care can actually have such a big impact on the way that they feel [about themselves].