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Media Club South Africa reporter
Imagine if, for 16 days, there was no rape, no child abuse. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which kicks off on Monday, challenges South Africans to declare a truce on violence against women and children – and, ultimately, to make it a permanent one.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the 16 days, from 25 November, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to International Human Rights Day on 10 December, to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
The days cover other significant dates such as International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November 29 and World Aids Day on 1 December.
Minister for women, children and people with disabilities Lulu Xingwana will officially launch the campaign, in partnership with North West premier Thandi Modise, at Mmabatho Stadium in Mafikeng on Sunday 24 November.
The opening ceremony will take the form of an interactive session with community members, and will be joined by representatives from People Opposing Women Abuse, Sonke Gender Justice, Childline and Disabled People South Africa. The media is invited to attend.
The international theme for this year’s 16 Days campaign is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women”. Under the theme, the campaign will focus on three priority areas:
- Threatened or actual violence perpetrated by state actors to maintain or attain power
- Domestic violence and the role of small arms
- Sexual violence during and after conflict
While the campaign runs only for 16 days each year, its objectives are reinforced by a year-long programme and a national plan to combat abuse.
South Africa is still home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned Constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women’s and children’s rights.
The government, business, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and the media are all participating in the drive to increase awareness of the negative impact of violence and abuse on women and children.
The campaign also aims to:
- Challenge the perpetrators of violence to change their behaviour.
- Involve men in helping to eradicate violence.
- Provide survivors with information on services and organisations that can help lessen the impact of violence on their lives.
What you can do
South Africans are urged to support the campaign by wearing a white ribbon – a symbol of peace – during the 16-day period to symbolise their commitment to never commit or condone violence against women or children.
Other ways to support the campaign:
- Like it on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at @16DaysCampaign. The hashtag for the campaign is #16days.
- Speak out against woman and child abuse. Encourage silent female victims to challenge abuse, and ensure that they get help. Report child abuse to the police immediately. Encourage children to report bullying behaviour to school authorities.
- Men are critical partners in the fight against the abuse of women and children. Men and boys are encouraged to talk about abuse and actively discourage abusive behaviour.
- Families must stick together to create a safe environment for women and children.
- Parents and adults can make sure that children are not exposed to sexual and violent material such as pornography.
- Volunteer some of your time and energy in support of a non-governmental organisation or community group working in your area to help abused women and children. Use your life skills and knowledge to help support victims of abuse.
- Donate some money to organisations working to end violence against women and children by making a contribution to the Foundation for Human Rights. Tel: +27 11 339 5560/1/2/3/4/5.
- Engage in online dialogues such as the Cyber Dialogues organised by Gender Links, which provides a platform to share issues and experiences and offer solutions, with experts participating in the online chats.
- Get connected with important contacts and information published on Women’s Net.
- Seek help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner and/or children. Call the Stop Gender Based Violence helpline on 0800 150 150.
- Report illegal guns to the police – according to the International Action Network on Small Arms Women’s Network, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the home.
- Join a community policing forum or community safety forum to help fight crime in your area. For information on how to join, contact your local police station.
Rhetoric and reality
South Africa, according to non-governmental organisation Gender Links, needs to close the gap between the “rhetoric of gender equality” and the “reality on the ground”.
Gender Links says the country has made impressive strides in recognising the roles and rights of women and children.
The Constitution recognises gender equality as the cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy, and new legislation – such as the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act and the Domestic Violence Act – have been lauded for enforcing the rights of women.
But more needs to be done. “Changing laws can be swift,” says Gender Links. “Giving them effect, and changing the mindsets that often render them ineffective, is a much more demanding task.”