Boys to Men by Cathy Heaton 

Are our boys lagging behind when it comes to empowerment? We live in a society that is driven to empower women, to level the playing field and rightfully so but when so much focus is on empowering the girl child what is happening to our boys? 

We want to empower women to become successful contributing members of society, which will lessen the stereotypical social norms and pressures imposed upon men such as always having to be the breadwinner and protector of the family. However, we cannot empower our girls and forget our boys.  As a mother of two teenage boys it concerns me that not enough is being done to ensure that our boys have a bright and prosperous future in the world that screams ‘female is the future’. The future is for everyone and if the alarming gender base violence statistics are not enough to make us realise that boys are falling through the gaps then I am not sure what will launch us into action. 

It is because of this that I have started The Gentlemen’s Code SA, a campaign to teach and encourage young men to live in a world where they too can be empowered, where they can learn to treat themselves and others with respect and dignity. Where they can acknowledge their own self-worth and the value that they and others bring to society.  According to a study conducted over the past five years by the Human Sciences Research Council and the South African Race Relations Institute, 60% of South African children have absent fathers and more than 40% of South African mothers are single parents. How are our boys supposed to know how to become men and treat women correctly if they don’t have good examples in their homes? South Africa suffers a legacy of fatherless homes and therefore it is up to this generation to realise the importance of being a present and committed father. It is up the good men in our society to fill the gaps and become positive role models to young men everywhere. 

So where do we start? Here are ten important lessons to raise a gentleman and empower your boys and boys around you. 

  1. Teach them to value themselves. Ask them what they love about themselves and what they feel they are good at. 
  2. Teach them that lying is never an option. If you live an honest life you never have to remember what you told people in the past. 
  3. Use your words. Almost everything can be resolved by communication. You do not have to raise your fists to make an impact. 
  4. It takes a long time to build a good reputation and only one foolish decision to ruin one. 
  5. It is okay to cry, to feel, to hurt. You don’t always have to ‘man up’. 
  6. Stand to shake hands and look people in the eye. 
  7. Step out of your comfort zone every once and a while and challenge yourself. Life is an interesting ride, take it all in. 
  8. Be kind – to others, to animals, to yourself. 
  9. Take care of your parents and respect them. 
  10. Be so proud of yourself that you will always strive to be that person.

I challenge all good men in our society to take up The Gentlemen’s Code and start living as if every young man and boy is watching your actions, are you teaching him the right way? Are you helping him become a better man? Are you contributing through your actions to end the scourge of violence against women? Are you making yourself proud? 

Join us at on Facebook and on Instagram @gentlemenscodesa it is my aim to have positive male role models from all walks of society to stand up, to help with workshops in schools and show our boys that they too can be good men! Let us raise a society that is better than the one we live in for both our sons and daughters. 

The purpose of the Gentlemen’s Code Initiative is as follows: 

  • To empower young men 
  • To educate men on how to treat women 
  • To educate young boys how to treat girls 
  • To encourage and empower boys and young men in a world that is very focused on female empowerment – we don’t want our boys to get left behind. 
  • To understand that feminism and women empowerment can happen alongside the empowerment of men too. 
  • In a country where the majority of homes are female and sometimes child headed homes boys are in desperate need of positive male role models within their communities. 
  • To grow confidence, self-love and self-acceptance in boys in order for them to live in a manner that is respectful to themselves and others. 
  • To teach boys and young men how to be successful 
  • To teach boys and young men how to conduct themselves in a positive manner. 
  • To teach boys and young men about hygiene and caring for and respecting their body. 
  • To teach boys and young men etiquette 

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