WEF launches fund to help SA fight gender-based violence

Protestors, who want the SA government to take action against violence aimed at women, outside the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the Cape Town International Convention Centre  on Wednesday. Photo:  Lameez Omarjee
Protestors, who want the SA government to take action against violence aimed at women, outside the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

The World Economic Forum has established a fund to support South Africa's fight against gender-based violence.

The three-day event in Cape Town saw business leaders and government officials coming together to discuss economic related issues - specifically, ensuring inclusive growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

However, the forum was not without challenges, and government instituted tight security measures as protesters against gender-based violence marched to the venue at the Cape Town Convention Centre on the first two days of the conference.

Protesters this week have marched to Parliament and the WEF to get the attention of government officials to stop violent attacks on women. On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa was pulled away from addressing the forum to meet with protesters at Parliament.

In between engagements at WEF, the president later on Thursday announced an action plan against gender-based violence, News24 reported.

As the forum wrapped up on Friday, President of WEF and Norwegian politician Børge Brende remarked that the forum was not just a talk shop and that there were several outcomes.

"During this summit we developed an action plan launched to tackle gender-based violence. The plan is backed by South Africa's government - the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities [Maite Nkoana-Mashabane] and the United Nations in South Africa," Brende said.

Zero tolerance

The plan has three core priorities. It sees government working with the technology industry to develop a free emergency response system for women under attack in South Africa's nine provinces, Brende said.

The plan also envisions supporting women entrepreneurs and their economic empowerment. A fund will further be established to help support South Africa's gender-based violence action plan, he added. Details of the fund were not announced.

"We have to walk the talk. There should be zero tolerance for gender-based violence. It is totally appalling and totally unacceptable," Brende said.

At a briefing earlier on Friday, former Nigerian minister Oby Ezekwesili commented on the eradication of gender-based violence. Ezekwesili was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Nigeria, after the kidnapping of 276 Chibok girls by Boko Haram in 2014.

She told jurnalists that there needs to be a "sustained focus" on the problem and a platform like WEF is useful in making voices heard globally.

"It is a global problem. It is reducing the productivity of the world if women are scared they would be beaten, shot down and raped and that there will be no consequences for that. That is impunity and the world cannot live with that impunity," she said.

Protests a sign of democracy

In his closing remarks on Friday Finance Minister Tito Mboweni commented on the protests. "We must not condemn young people for explaining themselves," he said, as he recalled for being part of the struggle in achieving a democratic South Africa.

CEO of Siemens Africa Sabine Dall'Omo told Fin24 in an interview on the sidelines of the conference that protests are "fair" in a democracy.

"The people protesting had a chance to have a platform to reach international leaders. In the ordinary course, they would not have had that platform," she said.

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