Sinakekelwe Nkwanyana has carved out an academic niche that she hopes may better inform how we understand masculinity in South Africa. Currently completing her PhD in public health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she dismisses the notion that men can be seen as a homogenous group — she’s chosen instead to focus on the nuances of cultural norms and learnt behaviours.
“I would like to see my work impacting behaviour change among young men, to destabilise toxic masculine behaviours and norms,” she says. “I want my work to contribute to the development of effective interventions and programmes that positively shape the sexual behaviour of young men in our country.”
Nkwanyana has had the opportunity to further pursue her research passion as a Phd intern at the Human Sciences Research Council. By exploring an area that — in many respects — is novel, she intends to produce data that is actionable and an asset to public discourse. With the gender-based violence epidemic still very much alive in South Africa, there is no disputing the value of this kind of research.
Nkwanyana’s efforts were picked up on the international stage and she was invited to present her work at a conference on decolonising men and masculinity studies at Brandon University, Canada in 2019.
Still, to this day, her proudest memory is completing her three qualifications in the shortest time possible and passing off her scrolls to her loved ones.“I will never forget the joy that it brought to my family and my community. My parents were over the moon; for me it was humbling to see their hard work and sacrifices paying off.”