KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

JOHANNESBURG - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala on Thursday announced that the province would have an army of champions to promote gender equality and help reduce violence against women and children.

“We will from today start identifying champions who will be trained in promoting gender equality and reducing violence against women and children. Our focus is on changing attitudes and promoting positive behavioural change among men," said Zikalala.

"The first step is to advocate for the positive socialisation of boys and men to respect women and to protect their dignity. This is  fundamental in preventing the abuse of our daughters, sisters, and mothers."

Zikalala encouraged victims of gender-based violence in KZN to make use of a 24-hour call service which is managed by qualified social workers.

"A team of senior government officials has been formed to identify hotspots that pose a higher risk to young people getting physically harmed or harming those around them. These will include pubs, taverns, and nightclubs that are frequented by young people, often college and university students," said Zikalala.

He said the KZN liquor authority will play an active role in monitoring the identified areas through more stringent regulations on trading hours and actively promoting anti gender-based violence messages at liquor outlets.

The provincial government will also embark on a massive campaign to mobilise local communities to support victims and their families.

Zikalala said this will occur in their homes, at police stations, and courts. The campaign will also monitor progress on cases, campaign against bail and parole for those charged with gender-based crimes and demand harsher sentences for those found guilty of abusing women and children.

"Government is also of the view that poverty, lack of skills, unemployment and gender inequality increases the dependency of women on men and thus their vulnerability to abuse," said Zikalala.

"In order to turn around this un-ideal situation, we have to vigorously pursue our radical economic transformation programme, particularly  as it relates to the emancipation of women and the youth."

"In this regard, the provincial government targets 30% set asides for women, youth and SMME. Also, by 2024, 50% of government spend on entrepreneurship will be given to women-owned and led business," said Zikalala.

African News Agency (ANA)