'Don't look the other way' - ministers launch 16 Days of Activism campaign

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Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
South African Government, Twitter
  • This year's 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign was launched on Tuesday.
  • The theme is "Women's Economic Justice for a Non-Violent and Non-Sexist South Africa".
  • The focus is on the importance of women's economic empowerment as an integral component of efforts to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide.

"Can we please not look the other way..." 

These words by Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, embodied the sentiment at the launch of this year's 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) on Tuesday. 

It is a United Nations campaign which takes place annually from 25 November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). The launch of 16 Days of Activism takes place during Disability Rights Awareness Month.

The theme this year is "Women's Economic Justice for a Non-Violent and Non-Sexist South Africa".

On Tuesday, Nkoana-Mashabane said as South Africa continued to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, the country was also faced with a second pandemic of gender-based violence and femicide.


Constant fear

"Our women and children continue to live in a constant state of fear. Our focus with 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children Campaign should be to continue our efforts of ending all forms of violence," Nkoana-Mashabane said. 

She said through this year's theme, the focus was on the importance of women's economic empowerment as an integral component of efforts to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide and build a non-sexist South Africa.

"Therefore the campaign will be aligned to Pillar 2 and 5 of the National Strategic Plan (NSP), focusing on prevention and rebuilding social cohesion and on building woman's economic power. We will also highlight the significance of all six pillars under the broader 365 Days Behaviour Change Campaign."

This NSP has six pillars ,which are: accountability, leadership and coordination; prevention and Restoration of social fabric; protection, safety and justice; response, care, support and healing; economic empowerment; and research and information systems.

"While we appreciate all interventions, I believe that prevention remains the key element in turning the tide against gender-based violence and femicide. We must eradicate the abuse and killing of women and children," Nkoana-Mashabane said. 

Counted as equal citizens

"The theme also highlights the role of women in the world of work, access to opportunities, unfair treatment, and counted as an equal citizen even at male-dominated sectors. It also links to women's ability to leave abusive relationships which they endure due to economic dependency. 

"With regard to action taken towards women's economic power, we note with appreciation that several actions have been taken towards building women's economic power. 

"South Africa is in the process of ratifying the International Labour Organisation (ILO) C190 which establishes a global standard for the protection of women in the world of work. The aim is to ensure safe workplaces that are free of violence against women. This work also aims to galvanise national leadership for gender equality and addressing gender-based violence and femicide in the workplace at the highest levels of decision-making."

She said South Africa made a commitment to earmark 40% preferential procurement to women-owned businesses nationally.

"Women would be capacitated on business registration and compliance, procurement and regulatory provisions, financial literacy, marketing tools and access to markets and access to finance and opportunities."

A training manual is being developed in this regard.

Call to action to the nation

"Having experienced the persistence horrific nature and the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in the country, I am calling upon the nation to recommit to programmatic intervention to: to repair the social fabric of our nation by eradicating ills and build a society where morality takes prevalence; recommit to efforts of building communities grounded on positive values and re-dedicate to building a caring society in pursuit of creating, equality lasting and prosperity in the country - these values involve respect for human life and basic honesty in the way persons and officials act in communion with one another and the authorities; build men and women who understand the true meaning of words such as honesty and integrity, and who have respect for the rights of others; foster greater religious tolerance and cooperation for moral renewal; establish a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights and improve the elimination of the system that exploits women to achieve economic justice; build a society where the ultimate goal is to create an opportunity for each person to establish a sufficient material foundation upon which to have a dignified, productive, and creative life."

On Wednesday, the first activity of the day will be the raising of the South African flag to half-mast at the Union Buildings and across the nation to signify the five Days of Remembrance of the loved ones and citizens who lost their lives through gender-based violence and femicide and Covid-19, she said. This will start at 06:00.

In addition, President Cyril Ramaphosa will hold a virtual dialogue with South Africans to engage on gender-based violence and femicide from 17:00 to 19:30.

READ | We have a long way to go to eradicate gender-based violence - Ramaphosa ahead of 16 Days of Activism

"In order to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide, we need society and government to work together to break the silence, report abuse and for men and boys to be partners as we work for a society free from gender-based violence and femicide," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Majority of women raped where they are meant to be safe

At the launch, Police Minister Bheki Cele said while the second quarter of national crime statistics showed a decrease of 16.8% in sexual offences, more than 8 000 rape cases were reported to the police in those three months alone.

"Many of the rapes occur in public places such as parks, beaches, parking areas and open fields, which means women are not safe. Worryingly, they also happen at educational institutions, workplaces and churches," Cele said.

"Worryingly, the majority of women were raped in their homes or at the homes of perpetrators. The majority are raped where they are supposed to be safe.

"We are calling on members of the police not to send women to negotiate with men when they come to report cases of violence against them. Arrest that person."

He said since the relaunch of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit, 5 534 offenders have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Between July and Sept, 94 people were sentenced to life imprisonment.

"We are putting more resources into the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit as part of our efforts to improve their work. We are training more people."

The NSP on GBVF was approved by Cabinet in March and presented to Ramaphosa. The IMC consists of the ministers of justice and correctional services, social development, police, and public service and administration as well as National Treasury.

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