Positive Third Space


Kwakha Indvodza’s Positive Third Space

KI indorses a positive and achievable masculinity, while promoting long-lasting behaviour change and healthy lifestyle choices. This is achieved through the construction of a Positive Third Space, which forms the core of all Kwakha Indvodza’s implementation. Adapting recognised sociological theory, as first conceptualized by Ray Oldenberg (1989) into the sub-Saharan and gender/youth development contexts, Kwakha Indvodza’s Positive Third Space serves a key gap in the psycho-social support and social development of Swaziland’s youth.

Kwakha Indvodza’s community-based initiatives form a positive space, away from the often negative, troubled or instable ‘space’ of the home and the sometimes threatening, overcrowded, utilitarian space of the school or workplace. As such, KI serves the community through providing supervised and constructive alternatives to more typical distractions which might lead a young man into making negative lifestyle choices.

This position is also often occupied by the Church or place of worship within a community, but these various structures are often divisive, can promote myths and misconceptions and do not offer the specific male-focussed support provided by Kwakha Indvodza, under the three pillars of our implementation: financial independence, male health and social responsibility.

In order to successfully create a Positive Third Space for boys and young men, there are ten tenants which are followed by our Chapter Coordinators and their staff. These are developed through sociological study, community research and data collection and the active implementation over the four years of KI’s operations.

KI’s Positive Third Space must:

·      Be created by people not places
A positive third space can be made on the side of the road, around a fire or under a tree. The physical space, whilst an asset is not necessary to engage the youth. What is crucial, however, is that the right people create the space. They must be positive male role models, enthusiastic, financially independent men and free from excessive bad habits. A variety of professions, ethnicity, backgrounds and views is ideal in promoting ideas of justice, transparency, and democracy, whilst destabilising stereotypes and exposing participants to various iamges of masculinity.

·      Be disassociated from the home and the school/workplace
The space must be distinct in its separation from the first (home) and second (school/workplace) space of a young man. In many southern African contexts, these spaces often are adult-centred, implement negative discipline, and reinforce the hegemonic views and practices of a patriarchal society.

·      Be a male-oriented space
The dynamic of any space, especially an adolescent one, changes significantly when it is mixed-gender, resulting in awkwardness, contests of dominance and the construction and re-enforcement of social taboo. In order for our emajaha to feel safe and comfortable enough to speak and act freely, this space must be male-orientated, if not male-only during more sensitive sessions.

·      Be safe and free from threat
Similarly, in order to gain the trust of any vulnerable young man, and to encourage similar values, the space must be free from all types of threat or negativity, as these environments do not reinforce true teaching moments.

·      Be regular, reliable and carefully constructed
Vulnerable young men need structure to develop. They also take time to trust, and suffer disappointments severely, so the space must reflect these needs.

·      Promote independent consequential-based decision making
Prescriptive education in adolescents is rarely effective and evidence suggests that imperative messages, however common-sensical, are often ignored, even by adults. Instead, the positive third space must encourage personal moral development, through a consideration of the possible consequences of an action or behaviour. This process encourages empowerment, self-awareness and a sense of accomplishment once a decision has been reached, making learning more effective and increasing the chances that a positive behaviour change will be adopted and maintained.

·      Be free from doctrine, be it religious, political or social
Doctrinal teaching denies self-reflection, the development of reason and a strong personal moral code. Kwakha Indvodza’s activities, therefore, do not actively insist on one doctrine over another but instead encourage a process of reasoned and personal reflection before reaching a conclusion.

·      Create a sense of ownership, achievement and responsibility
The space should foster a strong sense of ownership, identity and sense of affiliation amongst the emajaha, many of who do not experience these positive affirmations elsewhere.

·      Challenge patriarchal stereotypes and taboo
Patriarchy, like all hegemonic social practices, relies on the belief in stereotypes and stereotypical behaviour and the circumvention of social taboos in remaining unchallenged. Young men use these role models in constructing their own identity. The third space must therefore be a space that works to disassemble these oppressive social practices.

·      Encourage values of respect, dignity and purpose, and the individual interpretation thereof
These values promote strong and lasting behaviour change, especially in adolescents and young men and especially when the participants are encouraged to interpret these ideals into their own words and situations.




Achieving the ‘Teaching Moment’

Once a regular Positive Third Space has been established with a participant or group of participants, then the objective turns towards achieving maximum positive behaviour change within that space. This is achieved in a variety of ways and at a variety of different speeds; there is not one magic formula and each participant might respond differently (see KI’s Behaviour Change Theory). The most profound and rewarding result or success-marker of our interventions could be called a ‘Teaching Moment’. A Teaching Moment is a moment of genuine connection, a moment when real understanding or insight is achieved, or a moment when a participant finally voices the issues troubling them, and is willing to be counselled about it. These moments are uncommon, come at their own pace and cannot be forced. They are the eventual result of the patience and hard work of the mentor, as well as the trust, sense of belonging, identity and achievement created in the Positive Third Space.

Once the participant realises that this space is a democratic, non-judgemental and non-threatening space, where the social conventions he is used to may not apply.