Gender-based violence: let’s support the smart ideas

2019-11-20 06:00

AS the year starts to speed up as it winds up, it’s almost time again for 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children — a noble global annual awareness campaign that begins on November 25 each year, the date of the brutal murders of political activist sisters Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal in the Dominican Republic in 1960. In 1999, the UN declared the day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

As we tally up the dead women and children and start fielding invitations to events that claim to fight gender-based violence, we also brace ourselves for the continued onslaught of crimes committed against women.

But the call for a “ceasefire” over this 16-day period is never honoured by abusers, making a mockery of a period that ends with Human Rights Day.

This year, with our government’s theme being “Count Me In”, we should rethink what can be done.

Instead of attending endless talk shops and awareness days, let’s all put our hands in our pockets or offer up our skills to help raise women up.

Let us drive employees in government to actually do something, like supporting the smart ideas of others, rather than just holding a workshop or dialogue.

Here is one great idea — a few weeks ago I was listening to the head of the Tears Foundation talking on the radio about a wonderful empowerment initiative. She wanted to encourage contributions to a programme that would solve two big problems in one go.

She proposed taking 40 qualified psychologists who couldn’t find work and placing them in police stations to deliver post-violence services that the police can’t provide.

These 40 young people would get work experience and the women and children who reported abuse would get the counselling they needed — it’s a win-win situation. For a mere R7 000 a month for each graduate, with a commitment to support them for a year, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Alas, to date the organisation has managed to get only one graduate funded.

Why is it that such a smart initiative, and many others like it, haven’t been snapped up by a do-gooder corporate?

Why hasn’t it been adopted by the glut of government departments trying to be seen to be making a difference?

The reality is that none of us really knows how to stop men killing women and children.

All the events and panel discussions that are held are designed to mask the fact that men, globally, are a danger to women and their children, and it has always been this way.

This is abundantly clear in the state’s inability to move the needle even a tiny bit, no matter how many dialogues it hosts or what legislation it passes.

Instead, while we use the 16 days to highlight the enduring desire of men to harm women and children, let’s also support smart ideas that create ways for women to be economically independent, and get access to the services that support them emotionally.

This might not end violence before December 10, but it has more potential than another talk shop.

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