Impact Area:

Early Security and Safety

Year of Investment and Stage:

2021 | Early Proof of Concept

Current Stage

Early Proof of Concept

Investment Amount:

<R500 000

Financial Instrument:


Have we reinvested:



Current, Active

In South Africa, Gender Based Violence (GBV) has reached epidemic proportions. The need to scale a counter GBV programme is directly linked to the scale and multi-layered character of the problem.

Gender-based violence has a severe impact on the physical health and development of children. The psychological impact of abuse (or witnessing abuse) can adversely affect mental health and wellbeing, cognitive development as well as impairing bonding and attachment between fathers and children.
Research reveals that men’s use of violence and controlling behaviour towards an intimate partner often extends to physically punishing their children under the guise of discipline. Importantly, research is now showing that women who experience violence at the hands of a partner are more likely to use physical punishment to discipline their children. This further drives the cycle of intergenerational violence.

The team behind heCareZa believes that disrupting the cycle of intergenerational violence needs to begin with men, especially men who are fathers of young children, so that the patterns can be “rewritten” at source.

The Problem

The assessment of children’s developmental and psychological well-being, both in the short and long term is expensive and time consuming. Population-based data on child development is essential to improve the lives of children globally and to substantively advance global efforts to improve child development. Measuring global progress towards these goals will require a suite of new research tools designed to assess key developmental processes, While technology-facilitated innovations have attained some traction, penetration is limited. This is even more so when it comes to novel measurement innovation (for instance, heart rate monitors). This is particularly the case in African contexts, where logistical, structural, and social barriers to measurement are common, and resources for research, limited.

In these early years, the family has the most profound influence on the child and early intervention should be provided by no later than 6 months of age. The long term economic cost to countries is also high. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that children who do not receive early intervention can cost the state up to $1 million in their lifetime.

Despite the need and outcomes achieved, HH, a free, high quality early intervention programme reaching 6 provinces, has reached only 3% of SA children born with hearing loss in the last 12 years. HH has struggled to transition to scale. Adaptations to the model are required in order to expand reach and to leverage HH’s value proposition to facilitate sustainability.

The Innovation

On social media platforms, users share information about their lives, which makes it possible to collect data on social attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. heCareZa uses advanced social media listening tools to help to identify, analyse and track online prejudice, including misogyny in real time. They thematically analyse collected data to gain insight into dominant trends and gaps. This information informs customised content and campaigns targeted at hotspot areas for increased impact. Data analysis is performed continuously to refine searches and to track changes in dominant themes and trends over time.

Through this approach, they actively recognise citizens as knowers and actors. heCareZa learns from them as the experts of the issues they encounter in their everyday lives, including GBV. They engage these citizens as change agents and support them to contribute to shaping the dialogue facilitation and creation of content with support from in-house dialogue facilitators. The content created through this process focuses on positive messaging around preferable attitudes and behaviours, as well as possible solutions to violence. This type of messaging has been shown to be more effective than content that places blame. The ‘social listening’ along with participant generated content ensures that the content takes into account the specific contexts at hand, including cultural norms and unique knowledge within communities. This enables the creation of content that is personalised and unique, which will amplify reach and engagement (Liou, 2013).

While 64% of the population can be reached with digital channels and social media (Kemp, 2021), a large portion of the population do not engage in the cyber world. To remedy this, impact is extended through sectoral engagement. heCareZa aims to continue to build on existing collaborations with sectoral partners in targeted everyday spaces, including taverns, pubs, restaurants and taxis, clinics and in churches, learning institutions and workplaces. In these spaces, they will share content that encourages healthy dialogues around GBV, and the impact of the intergenerational transference of prejudice and violence on society.

    Why we Invested

    Social media gives us unprecedented insight into human behavior across the spectrum. Not only is it based on extraordinary large data sets, it is uniquely unsolicited data. There is no question of the reliability of the data gleaned from social media. We are excited to support HeCareza’s work to scale the project to achieve a commonly noticeable reduction in toxic male behavior that drives harm for society at large and specifically for children and women.

    This investment allows us to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the workings of gendered discrimination, GBV and fatherhood in South Africa (online and offline.) This will help to inform targeted GBV interventions and contribute to a wider body of knowledge to be used in a collaborative effort to change behaviour to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) the problem.

    The Project Team

    Stef Snel heads the heCareZa programme and has a 30 year track record of working with men and addressing violence. He is a social justice activist pursuing dialogical conflict prevention and resolution, as well as a diversely experienced facilitator and mediator in community conflict and development, multiparty disputes and organisational problem solving.

    The project manager, Jenna-Lee Strugnell, has Psychology Honours as well as Masters in Peacebuilding, focused on gender-based violence prevention. She has extensive experience in the NPO sector, which includes programmes engaging men to decrease GBV and running mothers’ support groups.

    Geoffrey Mamputa provides coordination, training and mentoring of the heCareZa dialogue facilitators, as well as engaging with potential partners and funders. Geoffrey is experienced in management consulting, cross cultural communication and mediation, with a particular interest in community conflict.