16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

A relentless war waged on women and children

By Tracy-Lynn Ruiters Time of article published Nov 28, 2021

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16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

The harrowing gender-based violence statics paints a bleak picture of a country at war with it most vulnerable citizens.

Each year South Africa observes 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the global campaign. But activists have called for less talk and more action.

Last week national Police Minister Bheki Cele, released the latest crime statistics for July and September, which included 9556 rapes cases, a 7 percent increase from the previous statistics and 13 000 cases of domestic violence.

Provincial figures show in the first nine months of the year, 125 children have been murdered.

Two years ago President Cyril Ramaphosa promised R1.1 billion would be used in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

But gender-based activists want to know what exactly has happened to this money.

Lucinda Evans, founding member of the project Philisa Abafazi Bethu Women Centre, says this was one of the many reasons why she has little faith in the countries number one citizen.

“Ask the president what happened to the money? How many organisations on the Cape Flats benefited from this fund?”

She says justice is slow for many murdered woman like the trial of 19-year-old Jesse Hess which has been postponed to next year. The UWC student was killed in 2019.

She says people must ask the president why “we as women still have to look for our own perpetrators, while we are paying his salary with our tax”.

“Ask him why we still only have 16 days of activism against GBV when we need it for 365 days.”

Evans exclusively tells the Weekend Argus that she has tried to report about a situation she personally has found herself in.

“I’ve been getting creepy calls late at night from a number I didn't know. This person would just breathe and say nothing. This went on for a month until I went to the police station. But I was told that they couldn't do anything because I only have a number and no location.

“I then decided to do my own investigation and tracked him down. I found that this guy has been targeting women who work with GBV prevention.

“This is why I want to also challenge the president to come and sit down, talk to me, account to me, why are we still struggling?”

Evans says the president must prioritise the true pandemic of the country.

“He has far less control on the GBV pandemic; he uses GBV as a political ping pong when this is our reality here.

“He is the secondary alleged perpetrator of the atrocities to women happening in this country.”

Bronwyn Litkie founder of SA Women Fight Back says she stands with her fellow fighters and wants to know what is really being done, besides the 16 days. Picture: Instagram

Fellow activist Bronwyn Litkie, founder of SA Women Fight Back, shares Evan’s sentiments. She says these campaigns mean little to the woman who will die at the hands of her partner tonight.

“Every16 days, everyone wears black, the government quotes statistics and talks about how they going to change GBV, yet we don't see any change.

She said the GBV fund was created and promises were made. “We all sent in our forms, we all got a response saying they will get back to us, we have heard nothing more. Petitions that we sent two years ago asking President Ramaphosa to stick to the promises he made, we got zero response.”

Litkie says that women are tired of the government using the 16 Days of Activism campaign to say that they are working on the scourge, when the job to protect women and children is a 365 day job.

“The truth is, we honestly need all the help we can get, but we just never receive it ... unfortunately.”

Bernadine Bachar, director at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women and Children says that not enough is done to protect women and children . Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)

Advocate Bernadine Bachar, director at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children and chairperson of the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement, agrees with her colleagues and says unfortunately not much has changed for women and girls in South Africa when it comes to being subjected to violence.

Bachar, who is also the executive committee member for the National Shelter Movement, says the plight has actually worsened.

In his weekly blog From the Desk of the President, President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that the statistics are shameful. “We are in the grip of a relentless war being waged on women and children that, despite our best efforts, shows no signs of abating.

He has said violence perpetrated by men against women is the second pandemic that the country must confront, and “like the Covid-19 pandemic it can be overcome if we all work together”.

He has said since the launch of the National Strategic Plan to Combat Gender-based Violence and Femicide (NSP) in 2020, there have been a several interventions to respond to GBV.

This includes legislative reform, support to survivors through the provision of evidence kits at police stations and psycho-social services, the establishment of a GBVF Fund and supporting the network of Thuthuzela and Khuseleka care centres.

He says SAPS is making progress in reducing the significant backlogs in DNA analysis, which is crucial to securing justice for survivors of sex crimes. The SAPS also operates 134 GBV desks at police stations around the country and is in the process of establishing more.

“Every year when November comes around, we make pledges to end violence against women and children. We take part in marches, attend mass mobilisation events, and wear regalia emblazoned with powerful slogans like “Sekwanele: Enough is Enough”...

“But what we have observed over the years is that most of those who take part in the 16 Days of Activism are women and children, those most affected by and concerned about GBV. This needs to change.

“Gender-based violence is, after all, a problem of male violence ... it should be men taking the lead in speaking out and reporting gender-based violence, in raising awareness, in peer education and in prevention efforts.

“The time for talking about GBV is over – we need to move to action and accountability,” he writes.

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