Stand up against gender-based violence

Violence against women was getting worse even before Covid-19 hit. But as lockdowns started, reports of domestic violence, especially, began to rise. What can we do during this year’s 16 Days of activism to help? 

25 November to 10 December is earmarked around the world for 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and children.

The 25th of November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and 10 December is International Human Rights Day. Since 1991, the 16 days between these two dates have been celebrated, worldwide, as a time to raise awareness and act to end violence.

Abuse is any form of harm caused when someone hurts your body or feelings, insults or threatens you, harasses you or controls what you do or how you use your money, stalks you or visits you without permission, or damages your health or wellbeing in any way, including emotionally or psychologically.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is not just the rape of a woman by a man. It encompasses the murder of babies because they are girls, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking and forced labour, domestic violence, elder abuse and harmful traditional practices like female circumcision. Boys and men can also experience violence, as can sexual and gender minorities, but women and girls are most at risk. Any kind of violence devalues the human dignity and self-worth of the victim – and debases the perpetrator.

In the past year, 234 million women and girls were abused. In some countries, helplines got five times as many calls about especially domestic violence. Even so, less than 40 percent of women were reporting abuse or seeking help, the UN reports.

Women and girls have been more vulnerable as they were stuck at home, have lost their jobs or were unable to go to work or school.

This year’s theme for the UN Secretary-General’s campaign to stop violence against women is “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” Here’s what that means.

The UN wants governments to fund essential GBV services as part of their plans to boost the economy, prevent the injustice with zero tolerance policies, respond with measures to make sure GBV survivors get essential services even under lockdown and collect data so the system can be improved.

A BFL ambassador since 2010, actor Patrick Shai has been working hard, publicly at rallies and behind the scenes at men’s forums, to turn the tide on violence and abuse.

‘December is the deadliest time of year for family life in SA,’ he says, ‘because migrant workers return home after many months away, and look at their partners suspiciously. Elements at work in the camps where they live (drugs and prostitution among them) take a lot out of the workers.’

“It is possible to change; it is wonderful to change. You can begin to be a father with whom your children can feel completely safe. I hope men will take this opportunity to read up on the work of Brothers for Life, and join us. They will see that a real man does not need the power of a weapon to be a man. A real man will teach his son respectful behaviour towards women; will be emotionally available to his wife, will spend quality time with his children and be involved in their lives.”

Now I Iook back at the time of hope. Hope that women and children would by now be safe from assault, rape and murder. I am sad that the reality is a horrible one. South Africa has become the one of the most dangerous places for women and children.

However, I remain committed along with all other activists against gender-based violence to fight for the eradication of systematic and structural GBVF enablers. I call upon families of perpetrators to also be sensitive to victims. As families, we must hold every member accountable for the violation of women and girls who come into our families. These actions and many more could help us better police would be perpetrators. I further commit to support government in all of it's programmes in the fight against GBV and the Prevention of Femicide. To every man and young boy out there I say, "Change begun with me" - when is your change beginning. When is your Damascus begin. Khuluma Ndoda!

Ending violence against women is everyone’s business. Here are some of the African Union’s suggestions for how you can help.

1. Listen to and believe survivors. Don’t say, “Why didn’t she leave?” Do say: “We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.”

2. Teach the next generation and learn from them. Talk about gender roles early on, point out the stereotypes, let them know that it’s okay to be different.

3. Call for responses and essential services. Shelters, hotlines, counselling and support for survivors should be available even during the pandemic.

4. Understand consent. Don’t just listen for a “no,” make sure there is an active “yes”.

5. Know the signs of abuse. If you’re concerned about a friend who may be experiencing violence or feels unsafe around someone, help them find safety and support. If you think someone is abusing you, help is available.

6. Speak out. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation that’s been perpetuated for decades. Make your social media profile “Orange” for the 16 Days of Activism. Use #EndGBVAfrica, #orangetheworld, #16Days and #GenerationEquality to start your own conversation about gender-based violence.

7. Stand against rape culture. Think about how you define a man and a woman and how your own biases and stereotypes influence you.

8. Hold each other accountable. Violence can include sexual harassment. Take a stand by calling it out when you see it. Speak up when someone crosses the line, or get help of others if you don’t feel safe.

The following organisations are here to help:

South Africa:
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Gender Based Violence Command Centre: 0800 428 428
Lifeline’s National Crisis Helpline 0861 322 322
People Opposed to Women Abuse +2711 642 4345

+264 61 226 889

+263 4 796 741 (or 116)
Musasa: +263 4 794 983 (or toll-free 080 80074)

Childline Botswana:
3900 900

Jet Club members have free access to Jet Club’s helplines.

For trauma counselling
SA & Namibia

0800 00 45 45

Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland
+2711 991 8258


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