With South Africa’s shocking statistics on gender-based violence, more needs to be done starting at grass roots level with the boy child. ‘What About the Boys?‘ aims to address the issues that boys and men experience, which according to some experts are seemingly at the core of some of SA’s high crime rates. The effects of traditionally defined masculinity and societal expectations sees boys equating emotion with weakness and teaches them to dominate.

A new call to action has emerged and ‘What About the Boys?’ programme proposes a paradigm shift by showing boys how to inhabit their masculinity responsibly. It facilitates and advocates a safe space for boys to connect and engage enhanced by a mentorship process to promote healthy ways to share emotion and break free from stereotype.
The programme runs in schools across the nation with a focus on underserved communities and has created a movement for change.
It offers an educational and supportive environment where boys can learn to manage their triggers while recognising the value of respect, empathy, and dignity in all relationships.
Critical to the programme’s success is the qualitative and quantitative data gathered before and after implementation. The sources for the data include scenario-based preassessment

Martin Sweet

With South Africa’s high unemployment rate, continued economic disparities and social barriers, the country’s youth face a myriad of challenges. Although there are interventions in place, continued economic disparities and social barriers continue to hinder the potential of our youth and more needs to be done. Youth empowerment programmes have emerged as vital initiatives that not only offer hope but also tangible opportunities for a brighter future. Such initiatives will break the cycle of poverty and unemployment by providing the youth with the necessary skills and opportunities to thrive.
One such champion of youth development is Primestars, which was founded 20 years ago by Martin Sweet.
With a formidable career spanning over four decades gaining respect in industries including business, government, development and education, Martin Sweet is a true force not only in executive corporate management but in championing the support and upliftment of the disenfranchised. Today Primestars is one of the leading youth development organisations in South Africa, which has, to date, benefitted over one million youth from under-resourced communities across the country.
Martin Sweet was initially recognised for his role in the conceptualisation and launch of the Cell C Take Your Girl Child to Work Day programme and has since introduced several ground-breaking social impact programmes. These include My Future, My Career – a Career Guidance project, The educate- Matric Revision Math and Science Initiative, Smartbucks- Mind your moolah Financial Literacy Project, STEP UP LET’S LEAD – inspiring youth leadership and STEP UP 2 A START UP encouraging entrepreneurial development, which in recent years focused on the green economy and climate change.
In 2022 Primestars launched a first-of-its-kind gender-based violence prevention programme, which has become one of SA’s leading boy child programmes titled ‘What About the Boys?’ and post-assessment questionnaires, as well as feedback from MENtors and focus groups with the boys, teachers, and others. The programme assessments have shown feasible behaviour change in continuous engagement and increased participation by young men wanting to do better.
What About the Boys has provided critical insight into boys’ understanding and attitudes to a range of topics around gender and masculinity – illustrating how these attitudes can be positively changed with the right guidance and hands-on mentorship.
The programme has been recognised by the SA President and government as an intervention that will help realise the objectives of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. It is also a contributing factor towards SA’s commitment to the Kinshasa Declaration, which highlights the importance of positive masculinity as key to eradicating violence against women and girls on the African continent.

As one of South Africa’s most innovative youth entrepreneurship programmes, ‘Step Up 2 A Green Start Up ‘ is an empowering initiative aimed at fostering innovation in the realm of sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship. It inspires young entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities in the green economy with a fundamental change in mindset from job seeker to job creator, producing solutions for an environmental problem identified in their relevant communities.
Since inception Step Up 2 A Start Up has impacted over 100 000 high school learners across rural and township areas. The 2023 rollout benefitted over 12 000 learners and yielded a record number of over 750 business entries received in the national entrepreneurship competition. Other milestones include the much-anticipated launch of the #StepUpAlumni network to facilitate a greater and ongoing connection with new and previous beneficiaries as well as the expansion of the programme to new areas, particularly rural communities in outlying areas, leveraging our sought-after mobile cinema model.
Martin Sweet and the team at Primestars along with various private, public and civil organisations, remain resolute in the mission to advocate for the rights of children across South Africa, empowering a new generation, and ensuring the ills of today are not those of tomorrow.
For more information or to get involved:
www.primestars.co.za / [email protected] / +27 (0)11 430 4740

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