President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the declaration against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) at the launch of the country's 84th sexual offences court at the Booysens Magistrate's Court on Thursday.
The declaration is one of the outcomes of the country's first ever presidential summit against GBV, which was convened after the #TotalShutdown movement planned a national march to highlight the plight of women and children in South Africa. The summit was held at the St George's Hotel in Tshwane.
News24 spoke to activist Nkeletseng Tsetsane who was instrumental in ensuring the declaration was brought to light:
News24: In what capacity are you attending the declaration against gender-based violence and femicide at the Booysens Magistrate's Court?
Tsetsane: I am here as an activist. I was actually one of the ladies that started the #TotalShutdown and now I am a director of Rise Up against Gender-Based Violence, which is an NGO that we formed so that we can focus more on work on the ground.
News24: When did you start working with women and children?
Tsetsane: Even before my work with the #TotalShutdown, I started a foundation for my daughter who is 13-years-old, where we host a series of workshops for teen girls specifically. We get an opportunity to have what we call "sex talks" with them where we drill in the issue of consent, sexual activity and what their options are – you know, which is something that we hardly ever talk about. With the scourge of GBVF that started happening, I felt that it was necessary for me to join the #TotalShutdown to register the voice of the teenagers because the focus is usually on women and when they say children, it tends to be toddlers. So teenagers are somehow left out.
News24: This is not the first sexual offences court, this is the 84th. What about this has activists so optimistic?
Tsetsane: I think because, as you heard in the president’s speech, there are certain demands that we made as the #TotalShutdown. One of the key demands we made was the issue of training and having people that are gender sensitive who are trained to deal with survivors. We always complain about re-victimisation of survivors through the criminal justice system so we are hoping and that is one thing we want to hold [President Ramaphosa] accountable to, that the staff member, right from the security guard to the prosecutor, are people that are gender sensitive. We are actually very hopeful.
News24: What are some of the other demands that you feel the president still needs to work on in relation to GBVF?
Tsetsane: He did declare it as a national crisis which is what we said we needed it to be. But also, what he did not mention is that we need a 365-day campaign on GBVF. It can't be held just during the 16 days of activism and it can't just be at certain events. The same attention that we give to HIV/AIDS is the same attention that we need to give to GBVF.
News24: Do you have faith in the current leadership dealing with the scourge?
Tsetsane: I think at the beginning, when we planned the national march, it was clear that we had issues with some leaders but as Mam'Bathabile Dlamini (Minister in the Presidency for Women) said, we went to New York and had thorough, honest conversations about where we are and who the real enemy is. The enemy is not us. We cannot be fighting against each other if we want to fight against GBVF. Dlamini's speech at the declaration of GBVF was a reflection of the conversations that we had. We are hoping that it is not just lip service.
News24: What does the ideal South Africa look like for you for women and children?
Tsetsane: It will be a South Africa where women and children can walk on the streets without fear. I think for me, we are robbing our women and children of so much. We are paranoid as parents because the minute your daughter says: 'I want to go to the mall,' you think about all the things that could happen. Safety is key. All other issues can come after. You can have good policies, economic empowerment but if you don't have people that are going to be the beneficiary of that, it is as good as useless.
News24: Do you think that South Africa can achieve this ideal?
Tsetsane: If we work together, yes. Leadership is actually genuine in their promises and wanting to deal with GBVF. It can be achieved.