While we have been fighting Covid-19 for nearly two years, the vulnerable in our communities have been fighting a far worse pandemic.
A pandemic where there is no vaccine and where instead of seeking help, the victims most often hide and choose to suffer in silence… until the next time and the next and the next, until there is no next time and they become just another statistic in a police report.
Studies show that 51% of SA women have experienced Gender-Based Violence with 76% moles admitting to perpetrating GBV.
2 695 women are murdered every year in SA. That is 1 woman every three hours. Our statistics are equal to a country in an active war. And we are…… at war.
South African women are left to navigate life in fear of domestic, sexual and intimate partner violence on a daily basis.
More so since the start of the Covid pandemic with the increased pressure on finances, lockdown, uncertainty, lost connections and increased dependency.
Each year we talk about the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide during the 16 Days of Violence, and each year the statistics get worse. From 1 July to 30 September 916 people were raped.
If we’ve all said no last year and the year before to gender-based violence, why are our communities not safer?
The Constitution gives us rights, but also duties. We as ordinary citizens, as communities living in ordinary streets, in ordinary houses have to take up our duty of care. We have to start living the truth that violence against our vulnerable is violence against our own.
The victim is my sister, your sister, his sister, her sister. The victims belong to all of us. The responsibility to care, to protect and to heal, lies with all of us.
This is not a government problem, a health or police problem.
This is an us problem. It is our communities that are vulnerable, that are scared, humiliated and broken.
If the cycle of violence is going to be broken, it will have to be you and me, us, who breaks it. And yes, government, the police and health will help, but they will have to be the supporting actors. We as communities — as ordinary citizens will have to be the leaders.
We have to break the shamed cycle of suffering alone. It is not your fault, my sister or mother / child — even brother. Hold your head up high and speak out. We will not judge and yes, we will believe you.
You were neither dressed to provoke nor looking for it. You were just you and someone hurt you. Not your fault.
We need to stand up for the victims and protect them and not add insult to injury by gossiping about the details of the incident. Victims of Gender-Based Violence are part of our communities. People who we belong to, who belong to us.
We need to teach our sons, our men, to change and learn to accept a woman’s decision. When she disagrees with me, I have to accept that and leave her without fear of being beaten up because she stood for what she believed in.
It should not threaten your self-worth if she does not agree with you. Sexual violence is a grave misuse of power and a clear disregard for the life and wellbeing of another person.
These 16 days of awareness, let’s start to build a safety net around our most vulnerable.
I challenge the men in our community to commit not to perpetrate any violence against women or children and to hold each other accountable to this pledge.
I challenge my community to support those who survived violence and continue to suffer the repercussions for many years on.
I call on families to raise their sons to exhibit healthy, positive masculinity that is respectful of women and children.
While we expect government to continue with its efforts in combatting Gender-Based Violence, I call on our communities to take their positions in the first line of defense and to hold ourselves and our friends, families, our communities accountable.
The power lies in us.