Now that Peter and I are back in New York and daily routines have taken over, we ask ourselves the “Shrek” question: “Are we there yet?”.
Of course not, we may have arrived back in Johannesburg or back in New York, but we are not there yet: the Ride on Speak out campaign to stop violence against women and girls just started!
We need millions of men as agents of change and we have many rivers and oceans to cross before we get there. Follow-up is what this ride is all about and we are full of ideas and plans to follow-up on.
Mo had a whole series of ideas for Ride on Speak out events in Southern Africa. One of them sparked my interest immediately and that was using the occasion of Valentine’s day. This could be an effective tool to remind ourselves and others that we must love our wives and partners, respect and protect them.
Another idea is to push our partnership beyond Harley Davidson Johannesburg and also establish a corporate engagement with Harley Davidson, the parent company. Further, we need to establish links with many other men’s groups, for example in other parts of Africa and the Middle East, as men can be such effective advocates for our cause to end violence against women and girls. We need men to reach other men and the younger we reach them, the more results we can expect. We want men to stand up and say: “I am against violence!”, a message of powerful masculinity to change men.
It was surprising to me that some women shared their hardship with us after we explained the reasons behind Ride on Speak out. One women told me how her ex “lost it” in front of the children and beat her up badly. The restaurant manager in Johannesburg I met complained about the psychological and economic abuse she gets from her boyfriend who just wants her money and does not contribute anything. She felt trapped in the bad relationship.
It was also surprising to me that after 5,000 miles I did not have enough of motorcycling. I started fantasizing about riding back to New York via Nairobi, Cairo, Turkey, Denmark, ferry to Iceland, boat to Nova Scotia, Seneca Falls (where there is a women’s rights park to honor the birth of the women’s movement in the USA), all the way to Brooklyn. “Honey, I may be home a bit late”, I would say to Leslie my better half. “We are riding this campaign to a whole other level”, I would say to Kristin Hetle , my encouraging boss who kindly agreed to be driven around in my side car after returning to NYC. That was fun but I am unsure if she has that motorcycling bug yet.
In any event, Kristin strategic partnership director at UN Women deserves great credit together with Nomcebo Manzini, our regional program director in Southern Africa for making the Ride possible. So many others deserve credit for the Team effort as well. The many sponsors, the owner of Harley Davidson Johannesburg, Fanie Haarhoff, his manager Pierre Delport, Leandri Bosch, our UN Women colleagues Redawaan Hendricks and Agnes Phiri who worked day and night behind the scenes. Kevin for his magic as our mechanic. Theo as our sweeper, my protector and guide in the back who also led us in prayer! Wayne Taylor for his endless road planning, fun and entertainment and the other Wayne (Pollock) for his jokes. Werner for his web talent and perseverance. John for being a pro as our spokesperson. Frans and Johann for their music and good cheer. Garth and Eddie for their leadership skills behind our illustrious captain Wesley. Mo for his waving skills and the way he played the imaginary drums while riding 100 km per hour!
I am sure I am forgetting many others who deserve mentioning such as Peter Hood. Thank you for standing up in Harare at the press conference and challenging the criticism that we were too white as a Team (” my father is darker than you”), also for choking up in Windhoek at another press conference when he explained why he got involved in our cause, debunking the myth that real men don’t cry. All the participants and support crew were awesome. Now I miss them like crazy. Will I see them again? No doubt, but when?
Maybe in a few weeks when the video by Harm Jan and Chris of Shipyard Productions will be ready. Those guys were Omni talented and they donated at least four weeks of their time to produce the visuals of our story. Face to face meetings may take a bit longer but I hope it will happen in 2013.
Our cause demands action urgently, we need so much more that UN Resolutions. We need a movement to force governments to act, to have men to convince other men that women & men need to work closely together to stop the scourge of violence.
Thanks to Welda Mouton for the photos from our visit in Namibia – Editor