Gender Focus

Life giving gender relationships have been an integral concern for CABSA since its inception in 2001.  However, CABSA has become increasingly aware of the importance of this issue within the context of the Aids pandemic.

CABSA is the copyright owner of the Churches, Channels of Hope (CCoH) programme and materials. ‘Churches, Channels of Hope’ is a programme mobilising faith communities to respond to the challenges of HIV. CABSA empowers leaders to become facilitators in their own communities and challenges them to be “channels of hope” through their lives and ministries.

The initial facilitator training is followed up by a mentor programme through which CABSA endeavours to keep contact with and further assist facilitators to implement the ‘Churches, Channels of Hope’ principles and concepts in their own communities.

The importance of Gender relationships have been emphasised in the structure of CCoH Training as well as the Mentor Programme since 2003. Training teams are chosen to represent both sexes as well as the population of South Africa.  CABSA expects regional representatives to be good ambassadors of healthy gender relationships.

In 2005 CABSA was involved in discussions to further “engender” the CCoH materials because we realised that –

“People in most if not all societies act in ways that are culturally defined by gender and that are not helpful in relation to, in particular, the spread of HIV;

“The centrality of good relationships must be emphasized; and

“It has to be emphasized how fundamental and central the issue of ‘relationship’ is – how we relate to God, to ourselves and to others” (Quotes from workshop Minutes).

During 2007, CABSA was supported by WVSA to improve the mainstreaming of gender in the CCoH materials.  A CABSA discussion workshop was held February 2007 with representatives from WVI and WVSA together with practitioners and specialists.

The outcomes of this initiative were:

  • - The Manual was revised to make certain that gender sensitive language is used.
  • - The Manual was re-read from a gender perspective and changes were made to ensure that it is inclusive from the first ice-breaker exercises to the closing ceremony.
  • - An additional Christian guiding principle was developed, that specifically emphasise the importance of upholding the dignity and worth of all human beings.
  • - A specific module focussing on Gender issues was written for the manual that includes a gender exercise.

These changes have been implemented successfully in the training since the middle of 2008.

The guiding principle which CABSA developed:

“Our relationships: To uphold the dignity and worth of every human being”


Once we understand that God created all human beings with immense value – and that Christ died for all of us – it should be reflected in an attitude of respect towards every individual. Our respect or lack thereof is demonstrated in our relationships.

In other words:

  • Relationships that reflect the example of Jesus will be life-giving, healing, beneficial and constructive towards all persons and full of mercy and compassion.
  • Therefore we need to challenge relationships – even those embedded in tradition or cultural practices – that are inhumane, unjust or oppressive.

The gender module of the training course introduces gender through:

  • A Devotion focussing on the theme of Gender & Culture,
  • Exploring how society views women and men, including debriefing and challenge,
  • Notes on gender and sexuality.

To emphasise the importance of CABSA’s gender focus, the refresher meetings that form part of the mentor programme for trained facilitators is used to facilitate exploratory gender exercises. CABSA conducts 2 to 3 refresher meetings per annum, involving 30 to 50 trained facilitators. As more time is available at these meetings, these gender sessions have been most enlightening for all participants as well as for CABSA.

These developments will be continued and expanded in coming years, as CABSA is continually improving CCoH materials.

CARIS pays specific attention to collecting important information on Gender to form part of the website and specifically the resource database.  In the constantly developing tools and resource section, materials are collected that focus on working with gender and also on working with, and including, men in this work.  Advocacy materials and campaigns on gender and gender based violence are highlighted.

CABSA staff emphasise life giving gender relationships in networking and advocacy opportunities where possible and strive to embody this in all actions and relationships.

What CABSA has learned:

  • Challenging gender roles is a difficult and often highly contentious issue.
  • It is important to verbalise and motivate clearly WHY this is necessary:
    • Decrease vulnerability
    • Reduce infections
    • Healthy relationships!
  • The challenge is to create a safe space where people can grow and gradually start to challenge their own gender roles.
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