Be a man of your word.
It’s a lesson Duma learned from an early age growing up in Eastern Cape, bouncing from house to house when tragedy struck his family, a value practiced even when needs were great and resources few.
With little access to electricity, clean water, and some days, food, Duma’s childhood was spent working hard to support his family: mother, grandmothers, aunt and sisters.
When he wasn’t helping out at home, Duma poured himself into his studies, believing that if he excelled he could one day go to university.
With the help of a Leadership Loan from These Numbers Have Faces, Duma is now studying chemistry at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
While his college studies have him some 1,000 kilometers away from Eastern Cape, Duma is still closely connected to his home. In fact, his dream of bringing positive change there is stronger than ever.
Last year, when Duma learned about the high rate of rape and murder of women and children in his hometown, he was appalled.
According to a humanitarian news organization of the United Nations, there is an estimated 500,000 rapes committed annually in South Africa. The country also has one of the highest incidents of child rape in the world.
The facts and figures were a devastating reality to Duma.
“Every time I hear or read on the media about crimes against children and women, I just get touched and feel that this is not OK,” Duma said. “After all, we live in a country where we say we are free, but some people are not, as they fear for their lives and sexual purity.”
As a brother to two younger sisters, as a son and grandson to women who had sacrificed so much to raise him, Duma refused to let the statistics go unchanged. He was determined to do something about it.
Despite the distance and the long hours required of his studies, Duma conceived the idea of a protest march in his hometown, Sterkspruit. More than a demonstration by the community, Duma wanted the event to be an opportunity for men to stand against the crimes committed against women.
With support from his friends in Sterkspruit, Duma wrote to the Department of Social Development and contacted local law enforcement to obtain permission for the march.
Some days it seemed as if the march was a distant dream, too much for a college student and his friends to carry out. But Duma persisted, determined to fulfill his promise, to be a man of his word.
On the day of the march, a bright September morning, Duma and other men from his community walked through town, holding a banner that read, “Stop Women and Child Abuse.”
Together, they demanded mercy and morals.
Together, they challenged men to serve as protectors.
Together, they called for change.
At the end of the march Duma handed the police station commander a memorandum he drafted. A journalist was close by to capture his words on live radio.
In his message, Duma stated,
“As men of Sterkspruit at large […] we need to change our behavior […] this march is not a complaint to the civil servants or any governmental department, but a call to us to restore our dignity. Let us bring back ubuntu in us.”
Ubuntu is a sacred word in South Africa meaning compassion and humanity, a word that Duma believes can change his community. We believe so, too.
Duma plans for the march to be an annual event until the abuse of women and children in his community has been eradicated.
“I want to have another one next year because I want this to sink in people’s minds that we need to have peace with one another and morals as men,” Duma said. “Even Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took Nelson Mandela and other heroes years of fighting for this freedom we are enjoying today.”
Duma serves as a role model in his community and we feel so fortunate to know him as a These Numbers Have Faces scholar.