South Africa is one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman, so much so that even President Cyril Ramaphosa said this in Parliament, lamenting the level of violence in the country.
In 2018 alone, he said, 2 700 women in the country and more than 1 000 children died at the hands of men.
“Research by Statistics South Africa showed that one in five South African women over the age of 18 had experienced physical violence by a partner,” he added.
National Week of Mourning
Today marks the first day of 16 Days of Activism and with it, the start of South Africa's national week of mourning.
The president has called for the country to mourn those who have died from COVID-19 as well as those who died as a result of gender based violence.
“It will be appropriate that during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, we demonstrate our remembrance of all those who have departed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence,” said Ramaphosa.
During the period of mourning, the national flag will fly at half-mast from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day, and as a show of solidarity, citizens are encouraged to wear a black arm band or black clothing or attires and ornaments which symbolise mourning based on their culture, tradition and religious belief.
New 24-hour toll-free helpline
The National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA), an umbrella body representing nearly one hundred (100) shelters for victims of abuse and their children is launching a toll-free 24-hour helpline on 1 December.
The helpline will be a toll-free resource for victims of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. Even though it will not act as a counselling service, it will enable victims of violence access to resources.
“The shelter helpline will be run by three social workers with substantial experience with shelters for abused women and a thorough understanding of the problems they face when trying to escape a domestic abuse situation,” NSMSA’s Advocate Bernadine Bachar said in a statemet.
Speaking to eNCA, NSMSA Exec member Zubeda Dangor said, "the helpline will serve the purpose of providing information to women of domestic and interpersonal violence in dealing with the South African Police, particularly in terms of reporting crimes of gender-based violence. It will assist women with protection orders of how to find protection orders, where to go, and what to do. It will also find the closest shelter for those women whose lives are endangered."
Who to call if you need help:
People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa) provides counselling – both over the phone and in person – temporary shelter and legal help to women who have experienced violence. Call them on 011-642-4345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Childline South Africa helps abused children and their families with a free counselling service. It deals with issues such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems and trafficking, and gives legal advice. Call their toll-free helpline on 0800-055-555.
Child Welfare South Africa focuses on child protection, childcare and family development. Neglect and child abuse can also be reported. Call them on 074-080-8315 or email email@example.com
Families South Africa (Famsa) provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces and mediation. There are 27 offices across the country. Call them on 011-975-7106/7
Tears Foundation provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Contact their free SMS helpline by typing *134*7355# or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Trauma Centre provides trauma counselling and violence prevention services for people affected by violence. Call them on 021-465-7373
Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution. Contact the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre on 0800-428-428.