Monakali told Weekend Argus she was deeply concerned that “just as with poverty, 16 Days of Activism continues to wear a black face. This needs to change for us to unite and fight violence against women and children as a unit. Labelling gender-based violence shifts focus from the real problem the country is faced with”.
“We need to change the conversation about violence against women, not only with the abused but with the abusers. We need to empower both parties, we need to empower the nation before we can journey on to observe 16 Days of Activism, which is now used as a political ploy,” she said.
Monakali started the organisation in 1989 with the hope of addressing violence against women and children and to support those affected by it. Recent studies show South Africa has a rate five times that of global society and at least one in five women is assaulted by her partner.
Nomonde Tshandu, 42, a mother of two, managed to escape an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship. “I realised the abuse years in the relationship. I was pregnant and when I told him the news, he told me to deal with it because he didn’t care. He was getting married to someone else. That crushed me,” she said.
Tshandu met the father of her child as a young girl but only started dating him when she had completed her tertiary education.
She thought he was the love of her life. “It was the constant demeaning, making me feel worthless and telling me to my face he was with other women. Many women see such signs from the onset, but we turn a blind eye.
“We tell ourselves it is all in our minds, things will change, but they never do, the abuse gets worse,” she added.
Fellow survivor Babalwa April, 25, nearly lost her unborn baby when the father of her child started abusing her physically. “He wanted to go out at night with his friends and I insisted on going with him. I was six months pregnant at the time. He hit me then he pushed me and I fell,” she said.
April did not leave the four-year relationship until eight months ago. “I just felt the relationship was dead and I walked away.”
Neither of the women believe the 16 Days of Activism campaign is effective.
According to Tshandu, “the day was meant to spread awareness and educate people on domestic violence, but it saddens me to realise that instead of walking away, more women are entering and staying in abusive relationships and more children are abused”.
Ilitha Labantu sees on average 158 new walk-in clients every month, with cases ranging from child neglect, domestic abuse and violence to rape counselling, alleged rape, elderly abuse, behavioural problems, child abuse, couples counselling, sexual harassment and trauma counselling.
Violence against women is estimated to have cost South Africa between R28.4 billion and R42.4bn for the year 2012-2013: 0.9% to 1.3% of the GDP. According to Dr Catherine Ward, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town, violence against children cost the country R238.58bn in GDP in 2015.
About 20000 men are expected to march to Parliament tomorrow under the slogan “There’s #No Excuse Not To”.
Ilitha Labantu’s fifth annual Take Back the Night march to launch the 16 Days of Activism in a bid to “make our communities safe and free of violence” is set to take place on Friday.