Projects – The Khanyisa Programme

The Khanyisa Programme

Khanyisa is a transformative education project working with young men, boys, women and girls (aged 13–25) which has been developed by Mandala trustee Matt York and Khuphuka Project director Skhumbuzo Mlibeni. Based in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Khanyisa facilitates a programme of workshops with groups of young people in wilderness settings, partnering with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The focus of the workshops is Ubuntu, the Southern African concept of interdependence – that we can only be human in relation to others and that, through knowing this deeply, it becomes natural to care for and be of service to others. Using Ubuntu as a core theme, the leaders facilitate exercises which explore subjects such as gender, masculinity, femininity, inequality, violence and HIV/AIDS with an emphasis on personal and group reflection and transformation.

Phase 1 of the Khanyisa project involved a one-year pilot project working solely with young men and boys which was completed in 2013 with an in-depth qualitative research study measuring the efficacy of the approach (you can read the full research article here). The research findings were also presented in the main hall of the South African AIDS Conference in 2015 by Skhumbuzo Mlibeni. The study found that the use of culturally appropriate transformative education approaches to masculinity can produce multiple beneficial results. The decreases in gender-based violence and risk-taking behaviour (including sexual risk-taking) and the increased self-esteem, communication, community involvement and participation in household and parental responsibility indicated great potential for the use of similar approaches in work towards gender equality, tackling gender-based violence and in HIV & AIDS programming.

A Khanyisa group during phase 1 of the project

The research study revealed that although the project’s transformative education approaches resulted in positive changes in the gender identities of the young male participants, engaging in such work in isolation without complementary programmes in other parts of the community, in particular with women and girls, resulted in a significant lack of understanding and a negative backlash from the wider communal field. This implies that, in order to bring about a sustained social change, Khanyisa’s methods need to be integrated into a much broader whole-community approach. Changes in masculine identities are not in themselves enough, and it is with this in mind that phase 2 of the Khanyisa project has been launched. Phase 2 works with groups of both boys/young men and girls/young women, separately at first, and then bringing the groups together in an attempt to integrate the learning across genders within the community. The facilitators and participants will also organise youth imbizos (meetings) in schools, community halls and on site at the Khuphuka Project (host NGO) in order to share the Khanyisa methodology on a far wider level.

The Khanyisa team (from left to right): Msawenkosi Cekwane (men’s group facilitator), Skhumbuzo Mlibeni (project coordinator) and Samkelisiwe Miya (women’s group coordinator)

The aims of this programme and the research it generates are to further the knowledge base within the field of transformative education, and to make this important work more accessible to an ever wider circle of girls/young women and boys/young men, establishing a youth movement informed by Ubuntu and committed to positive social action.

You can download a free copy of the e-book,Transforming Masculinities, which describes the Khanyisa methodology and also includes training resources here.

‘Umuntu ngu-umuntu ngobantu’

(Nguini proverb translated ‘I am because we are’)