“No woman or child should be sexually harassed, beaten, raped, stabbed, shot, or attacked in any manner, anywhere in our country.” ~ South African President, Jacob Zuma
According to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is described as any act ‘that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’.
It was this Declaration that inspired the 16 Days of Activism in South Africa, a national awareness campaign that has been in existence for the past fourteen years. Every year from the 25th of November to the 10th of December, various organisations create awareness around GBV to educate individuals and also to serve as a platform for abused persons to come forward and seek assistance.
During this time, South Africa is committed to protecting the vulnerable persons in society by ensuring the below objectives speak to the needs of the country. The efficacy of these objectives, and the 16 Days of Activism campaign as a whole, have been questioned of late. South Africa’s shockingly high rate and violent nature of sexual offences call for much more than just 16 Days of Activism. Awareness, protection and care for survivors must be a 365-day campaign.
Some of the objectives include:
During these 16 days, people wear white ribbons to show their support. Individuals are encouraged to get tested for HIV/AIDS at various testing stations, made available by government, around the country.
The 16 Days of Activism is also a time in which people should be encouraged to speak about their experiences so that others may find the courage to come forward and end their suffering. Awareness should not only be confined to the Days of Activism, but throughout the year. Creative Consulting & Development Works Research & Evaluation Manager Susannah Clarke reiterated this view by saying that “16 Days of Activism is important because it raises awareness on the issues we have in this country. Human rights cannot be protected if a person is not aware of their human rights… there is a need to have 365 days of activism not only 16 days; we should always be cognisant about these issues and not only at a certain time of the year.”
Gender-based violence is rampant in this country and millions of women live in fear, many within their own homes. It is vital that communities become proactive in combating GBV. Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko mentioned that although much “… has been achieved since the dawn of democracy, things such as gender-based violence, poverty and unemployment continue to be a big problem for South Africa and other countries.”
We are told that a woman is raped every 17 seconds in this country, but only one out of nine report it. A shocking one in six men report they have been a perpetrator of sexual violence. Violence against women knows no race, culture or class; it spreads across all communities. We must recognise that these numbers and statistics are not just numbers, they are people – South African women and girls. We must stand together against gender-based violence 365 days of the year, and do something. We must reach boys at a young age to dispel the myth, and tradition, that power over a woman makes a man. We must stand up against domestic violence instead of covering our eyes and turning up the music. Dr. Mamphela Ramphele writes, “Violence against women and children is emblematic of a society at war with itself.”
Creative Consulting & Development Works wishes that all South Africans unite to help combat gender-based violence. After all, there is strength in numbers… and in knowledge.
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