Imagine if, for 16 days, there was no rape, no child abuse. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign challenges South Africans to declare a truce on violence against women and children – and, ultimately, to make it a permanent one.
For the 16th year, South Africa is taking part in the global 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) through to International Human Rights Day on 10 December.
With the theme “Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”, the campaign will be officially launched by President Jacob Zuma in Reiger Park, Ekurhuleni, on 25 November.
While the campaign runs only for 16 days each year, its objectives are reinforced by a year-long programme and a national plan to combat abuse.
South Africa is still home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned Constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women’s and children’s rights.
The government, business, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and the media are all participating in the drive to increase awareness of the negative impact of violence and abuse on women and children.
The campaign also aims to:
- Challenge the perpetrators of violence to change their behaviour.
- Involve men in helping to eradicate violence.
- Provide survivors with information on services and organisations that can help lessen the impact of violence on their lives.
What you can do
South Africans are urged to support the campaign by wearing a white ribbon – a symbol of peace – during the 16-day period to symbolise their commitment to never commit or condone violence against women or children.
Other ways of supporting the campaign:
- Speak out against woman and child abuse. Encourage silent female victims to challenge abuse, and ensure that they get help. Report child abuse to the police immediately. Encourage children to report bullying behaviour to school authorities.
- Men are critical partners in the fight against the abuse of women and children. Men and boys are encouraged to talk about abuse and actively discourage abusive behaviour.
- Families must stick together to create a safe environment for women and children.
- Parents and adults can make sure that children are not exposed to inappropriate sexual and violent material.
- Volunteer some of your time and energy in support of a non- governmental organisation or community group working in your area to help abused women and children. Use your life skills and knowledge to help support victims of abuse.
- Donate some money to organisations working to end violence against women and children by making a contribution to the Foundation for Human Rights. Tel: 011 339 5560/1/2/3/4/5.
- Engage in online dialogues such as the Cyber Dialogues organised by Gender Links – see www.genderlinks.org.za – which provides a platform to share issues and experiences and offer solutions, with experts participating in the online chats. Gender Links also offers way for you to support recent survivors or gender-based violence. See the online pledge form.
- Get connected with important contacts and information published on www.womensnet.org.za.
- Seek help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner and/or children. Call the Stop Gender Based Violence helpline on 0800 150 150.
- Report illegal guns to the police – according to the International Action Network on Small Arms Women’s Network, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the home.
- Join a community policing forum (CPF) or community safety forum (CSF) to help fight crime in your area. For information on how to join, contact your local police station.
Rhetoric and reality
South Africa, according to non-governmental organisation Gender Links, needs to close the gap between the “rhetoric of gender equality” and the “reality on the ground”.
Gender Links says the country has made impressive strides in recognising the roles and rights of women and children.
The Constitution recognises gender equality as the cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy, and new legislation – such as the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act and the Domestic Violence Act – have been lauded for enforcing the rights of women.
But more needs to be done. “Changing laws can be swift,” says Gender Links. “Giving them effect, and changing the mindsets that often render them ineffective, is a much more demanding task.”