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Raquel Lewis asks men to take a hard look at themselves and what they are doing to end violence against women.

On Youth Day I was struck with thoughts about how the immense violence that occurred on June 16, 1976 changed the lives of South Africa's youth forever. They sacrificed their lives so that we, as the youth of today, could have a better future. 

Have has all those sacrifices just amounted to nothing?

As a 21-year-old woman who uses public transport, I live in a constant state of fear and panic. My daily life is filled with carefully planned out choices that seek to ensure my safety. I have to choose clothes very carefully so that I do not attract a lot of attention. I choose running shoes over heels because how would I run in heels if I were chased or attacked? I choose to walk slower, so that the man walking behind me walks in front of me. Sometimes I speed up my pace so that I walk within screaming or running distance of help. Once finally on the bus, when I see a woman walking alone, I pray that she gets where she needs to be safely. I look over my shoulder constantly, and ignore unwanted catcalling and even inappropriate touching.

As a woman you are taught from a young age that you should not do certain things or wear certain clothing because that could be dangerous. 

But why are we not teaching our sons not to harm young girls and women instead? Why not teach them about the importance of consent and respecting women? 

Respecting women is not just opening the door for us or letting us get on the bus before you. 

Respecting women is to not catcall, to not constantly bombard us with unwanted advances even after we have made it clear that we are not interested. 

I really believe one of the things holding us back and stopping us from ending violence against women is that we live in a country filled with double standards. 

In 2015/16  an estimated 42 596 women were raped, and these are just the reported cases. This alarming number is the reason I pray daily that I do not become a statistic.

So on Youth Day I call on the men of our generation to take a hard look at themselves and what they are doing to end violence against women. Do you protect women from harm or do you cause harm? 

I ask you to teach your sons right from wrong and call your problematic friends out when they do or say something offensive. Change yourself and you can change your world.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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