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'Mentoring young boys the most important thing we can do to stop GBV'

This is something that must stop and we are going to stop it and we are going to keep on working at stopping it.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

Strong words from the founder of The Character Company, Jaco van Schalkwyk.

The past week's protests sparked by the murders of two UCT students have re-ignited the national conversation around the role of men in perpetuating the cycle of gender-based violence. The parallel question of how the men of South Africa should be contributing to ending the scourge, is the reason van Schalkwyk started the organisation.

Its mission is to raise boys to be good men. This is it does through mentoring, while instilling the values of courage, kindness, self-discipline, honesty and respect.

Van Schalkwyk believes the scale of violence in our country is directly related to the high number of boys growing up without fathers.

The latest statistics are something like 67% of our children are growing up in single parent homes and that's where the dads are absent, not present.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

The other about 30% unfortunately a lot of the time the dads are present, but absent.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

The Character Company focuses on kids aged between five and ten. Boys who are enrolled are mentored once a week and get to take part in weekend camps and other activities.

We don't come with an empty promise or a quick fix. We build a relationship, we change the heart, we give a value system and through that we then change the behaviour.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

This is a process that's ongoing, it's intensive, it's long term, it is essentially the most important thing we can do right now to fix this in our country.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

He says they focus on the five-to-ten year age group because this is the crucial period for forming an identity, traditionally with the help of a natural father.

Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? Mom can't do that for me. She's amazing and she will always love me but these things I need to hear from my dad.

Jaco van Schalkwyk, Founder - The Character Company

He says the mentors' interactions with the kids, whether it's hiking or jumping in the river with them, has meaning, bringing a realisation that they are important and someone cares about them.

The Character Company also runs a support programme for the mothers who enrol their sons.

Find out more on the website thecharactercompany.co.za.

Listen to the conversation with van Schalkwyk here:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : 'Mentoring young boys the most important thing we can do to stop GBV'


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