Songs have been released, peaceful protests have been organised and social media has vigorously spread the word, but women still have little to celebrate during their month of recognition.
Too many continue to die at the hands of their partners, friends or strangers through gender-based violence, and this “silent” or “second pandemic” has been on the rise during lockdown.
Children under the age of 16 were involved in 70% of rape cases during lockdown, according to The Witness. And, as options for help and a safe refuge were limited, some women were physically abused for the first time during this period, according to LifeLine Pietermaritzburg director Sinikiwe Biyela.
This depressing state of affairs doesn’t mean there’s been no progress – both individuals and small organisations have taken up the task of addressing abuse against women.
One such place is Mosaic, a holistic service and for the healing and empowerment of women through support services, access to justice, and training. DRUM speaks to executive director Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan to learn more.
“Mosaic was established in 1993 in response to high levels of violence against women, in particular domestic violence. There was a recognition that many women suffer in silence due to lack of knowledge of rights in law and confidence to access justice for themselves.”
The trauma these women experience affects many areas of their lives, including how they take care of themselves and their children and how they contribute to their livelihoods and thrive in society, Mchuchu-MacMillan says.
The centre – based in Wynberg, Cape Town – therefore looks at the bigger picture, encompassing a four-pillar service that offers access to justice, support and healing, engaging men and boys and empowerment.
“Gender-based violence has remained a major challenge during our 27 years of existence, that needs a constant resilience in approach and commitment,” Mchuchu-MacMillan says.
However, there appears to be a lack of commitment in our system. Announcements about plans of action are made but the numbers and rate at which women’s bodies are being violated do not corroborate this.
And this is why the job has fallen into the hands of organisations like Mosaic, who rely on a community of activists and supporters to operate. Like so many small organisations, Mchuchu-MacMillan says they need help from across the board to make a difference.
“People can assist us in raising funds and awareness to ensure we continue to serve survivors,” she says. “But we also face challenges of corruption and lip service to ending GBV. The development of policies and laws is important and necessary, but what we need is a focused, coordinated community response action plan that has responsible stakeholders in both public and private institutions. We need to improve implementation of laws in practice, not only on paper.”
Here’s a list of things you can do to assist organisations in their fight against gender-based violence:
This is the easiest way to find information and to gain it. Hashtags usually help something trend on Twitter and people tend to share a lot of information on Instagram Stories.
A page on Instagram that has been consistent with keeping the names of victims alive is Keep The Energy. “Our aim is to fight gender-based violence against women, children and LGBTQIA+ persons. We cannot afford to die down,” it says.
Check the pages of linked organisations to find out how you can assist.
Donate or start a fundraiser
Most organisations rely on donations, as they can’t provide for everyone from their own pocket. This is why funding remains one of the biggest issues.
Donations can range from blankets to clothes and toiletries. If you don’t need something anymore, someone else might.
If you aren’t able to donate, get creative and start a fundraiser. It’s up to you how you do it, but remember to say why you’re doing it to gain traction.
Take inspiration from Khethiwe Sibanyoni who makes comfort bags “for the survivors who have to spend a few nights in police station cells while the police arrange safer environments”. The bags contain things like soap, sanitary towels, underwear, snacks, a notebook and a pen.
Be a volunteer
If you aren’t able to give something, volunteering might be the next best thing. Sometimes there’s no such thing as too much help.
For example, Mosaic has an internship programme that’s on the hunt for young professionals in social work, social auxiliary work, programme design, research and fundraising.
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) has a volunteer programme that’s looking for people in human resources, marketing or with legal experience.
Check out Move! magazine’s list of places to volunteer in the country’s three major cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.