As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign kicked off at the weekend, the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) recorded an increase of over 20 000 victims seeking psychosocial support services.
This year marks the 25th anniversary since South Africa initiated the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.
The theme for this year’s campaign is: “Accelerating actions to end gender-based violence & femicide: leaving no one behind”.
DSD said its Victim Empowerment Programme saw an increase in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) victims accessing psychosocial support, rising from 51,790 in 2020/21 to 76,178 in 2022/23.
At a DSD 16 Days of Activism campaign launch event in Eerste River, GBV survivor Larochelle Fisher, shared her journey of overcoming adversity. Fisher was sexually, physically, and verbally abused as a child and as an adult. While awaiting trial for killing her alleged abusive husband, she lived in a women’s shelter in Cape Town. More than a decade later, she is a field worker whose life’s mission is to help others in need of support.
“Today I am standing here thanks to my faith in God, and the support of the women and social workers who helped me through those difficult years. I’ve made it.
“I am a survivor. I didn’t let my past determine my future,” said Fisher.
Commission for Gender Equality spokesperson Javu Baloyi said they were not surprised that more women were coming forward to seek help.
“People now are aware of their rights. It talks to the impact of education and messaging out there. What we need to do now is get more shelters through DSD and public works.
Houses for victims of gender-based violence, not putting people’s life in danger by sending them back to a house with someone who abused them. We also need to tighten the system in terms of prejudicial issues because the problematic part is we don't have a dedicated unit, with serious experience in this field.
“In the court it’s not what you can say it's what you can prove...It's a shame when it comes to investigation, the concern is that cases of GBV take forever to prosecute.It can run as much as two years, so victims get despondent and withdraw,” he said.
Hope for the future founder, Vanessa Nelson added that the war against women and children remained because the “system is not equipped to support us as victims”.
“There is an increase in women seeking support but how many of these cases have resulted in successful convictions?
That’s where the gap lies in getting justice for women, girls and boys,” she said.
In launching the 16 Days of Activism Campaign for 2023 in Mpumalanga at the weekend, deputy president Paul Mashatile said this month marked a historic milestone with the passing of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill by the National Assembly.
“The establishment of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, underpinned by this robust legislative framework, is an urgent and critical task.
In addition, we have established and capacitated the Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) at provincial and local levels to end the pandemic.
This includes the development of the Comprehensive National Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Prevention and the Integrated Femicide Strategic Frameworks, which signal a holistic approach to turning the Gender-Based Violence tide,” he said.
Abuse can be reported to the Department of Social Development’s toll-free number at 0800 220 250.
Gender-Based Violence Command Centre: Call 0800 428 428 or dial *120*786
# Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150.