Poppie van der Merwe
Poppie van der Merwe
Louisa Koekemoe. Pictures: Thobile Mathonsi / ANA
Louisa Koekemoe. Pictures: Thobile Mathonsi / ANA
Kobus Koekemoer. Pictures: Thobile Mathonsi / ANA
Kobus Koekemoer. Pictures: Thobile Mathonsi / ANA
The 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence reminds us of the type of violence that women, children and others face, while Independent Media’s campaign implores us: “Don’t Look Away”.

But sometimes what is required to really bring home the message is a shocking court case.

One such case is that of Poppie, the little girl who died at the age of three after regular assaults at the hands of a violent stepfather, while her mother did nothing to protect her.

Yesterday, both parents were found guilty of murder, with the judge finding common purpose; in other words, the mother was equally culpable, irrespective of who delivered the physical blows.

In terms of the law, the judge reminded the court that parents have a duty to protect their children, but so too do a host of other adults who failed Poppie and her brother, and enabled the abuse to continue unabated.

The family moved around, from Orania to Hopetown to Brits, which is where Poppie died, running it seems from social workers.

But what of the teacher who saw Poppie with a black eye, and her mother who did nothing when her husband shouted at, kicked and hit the child, twisted her ears, cut her hair, grabbed her and threw her to the ground?

And what about other adults who must have heard the child cry or seen her bruises?

"Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls” is the global theme. “Don’t Look Away” is the local theme for this 16 Days campaign, which draws to a close on Sunday.

We have raised awareness and done some introspection, we have marked the event - from wearing orange to joining a protest - and we have participated in the online conversation.

We need to ensure that the campaign goes beyond this time, and that in future, when we see or suspect abuse, we will not look away, or leave the victim behind, but take decisive action.

If someone had done this for little Poppie, she might have been alive today.

Pretoria News

* Val Boje is editor of the Pretoria News.