Cape Town - Airing their dirty laundry took on a new meaning for pupils from schools in and around Manenberg on Thursday.The pupils were given an artistic platform when the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children hosted its annual "Air Your Dirty Laundry" event. As part of the event, hundreds of T-shirts with anti-abuse messages were hung on makeshift washing lines.Simple messages such as "stop fighting" and "abusers must fall" were painted on little T-shirts.The centre’s director, Shaheema McLeod, said the campaign formed part of the 16 Days of Activism and was an opportunity for children to have a say on how violence impacted on their lives."Abuse is a huge problem in this country. What better way to change mindsets than by starting with the little ones and giving them an opportunity to change their futures?"People normally keep social problems within the home - no one must know. We have had enough of that," McLeod insisted."If that means literally hanging up T-shirts, that is what we will do to get our message across."In recent years, the centre has seen a 65% increase in the number of women and children seeking assistance at the facility’s emergency shelter."R28.4bn is spent per annum on containing the situation of gender-based violence. SA is clearly sitting with a huge problem," she said.'Those pinky secrets must come out'Pupils who attended the event listened intently as Manenberg police spokesperson, Lieutenant Ian Bennett, encouraged them to go to the police if they felt unsafe or if they experienced abuse."All those pinky secrets must come out," he said."I want to help you so that you only have good, clean washing in your life. What happens when you wear a sweater for too long and you just put it in your drawer? It stinks and smells after a while. "That’s what happens if you keep secrets – you become sad and depressed."One little boy nudged his friend and told him to listen up."Yes, my mommy says you mustn't hit girls or people who are smaller than you," he said sagely.Violence against women and children was a reality which was often not even hidden in their communities, older pupils told News24."Where I live, there is a lot of abuse," said Eric Titus from Mitchells Plain.Never-ending cycle"It has an impact on me and everyone around me because we see it every day. Men shouldn't abuse women and children - it’s a never-ending cycle."Fatima Albertyn from Strandfontein agreed. "No one should be abused. The abusers were once children too. If they used to be beaten, I am sure they should know how painful it is to grow up in such an environment."Women and children should be treated as equal to men, said Inganathi Ndzule from Delft."I want to walk around in a society where I am safe, not scared that a man is going to hurt me. Those who hurt us need to realise that children and women are not their property. We are human."