to gender-based violence.
The topical issues of violence against women and maternal deaths were deliberated at a Women’s Health Colloquium organised by Dr Sisana Majeke, Advanced Midwifery, Neonatal and Child Health Programme Coordinator, and her master’s students registered for the Women’s Health Programme offered by UKZN’s Discipline of Nursing.
Participants, who hailed from various health districts of KwaZulu-Natal agreed that every citizen has the responsibility to stand up and be counted. This is in support of a national campaign to ensure that offenders of women and children are brought to book in order to put an end to violent and sexual crimes that ruin the county’s social fabric.
The sentiments were supported by Professor Busi Ncama, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health, together with Professor Gugu Mchunu, the Discipline of Nursing’s Academic Leader, and Professor Koleka Mlisana who heads the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control. They all attended the colloquium and said it was time to take action against gender-based violence (GBV).
Maternal deaths – defined as death that occurs during pregnancy, childbirth and the period between childbirth and the return of the uterus to its normal size – were said to have a direct impact on realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) five and six which aim to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health globally.
UKZN alumnus, Commissioner Janine Hicks of the Commission for Gender Equity, delivered a compelling evidence-based critique of GBV in South Africa, stating that 60% of maternal deaths are preventable and so long as GBV prevailed, the country would never see the MGDs realised for women.
Hicks said violence against women is an obstacle to equity which violates basic human rights, negatively impacts on the public health system, increases disrespect and decreases one’s sense of security. She said one of the biggest problems with GBV is the underreporting of incidents.
Increased public education, raising awareness and generating information on the social services available to community members on the grassroots level was recognised as key drivers to achieving the common goal of saving the lives of women and children in the country. Hicks recommended the familiarisation of traditional leaders to the Domestic Violence Act and lobbied for women’s economic empowerment and an increase to the limited number of shelters that protect women, children and the elderly such as the Thuthuzela Care Centres which are spread across high incidence areas in the province.
Dr Sagie Naidoo, renowned Forensic Pathologist and Honorary Lecturer at UKZN’s Department of Forensic Medicine, was among the speakers who said there was a growing need to train forensic nurses in the country in order to ensure that victims of rape and GBV are received by a skilled and multidisciplinary team of professionals at every healthcare centre.
Professor Jack Moodley, Chairman of the National Committee for Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (NCCEMD) said five important “Hs” needed attention in the monitoring of maternal deaths; namely: HIV and AIDS, haemorrhage, hypertension, training health workers and improving the health system in terms of skills and resources.
The team of students reported on the their on-going women’s empowerment community project which is being carried out in four phases and hoped to be sustainable for women living in the Cato Crest community. Part of the projects aims are to address poverty in the area and the students succeeded in promoting the planting of vegetable gardens that provide nutrition to the families and a bit of income from making sales from the surplus of produce. Other planned activities include a fun-walk to raise awareness on obesity, a skills workshop and a health promotion day in addition to handing out 200 leaflets written in isiZulu to raise health awareness.