Fairness First Opinion South Africa

#FairnessFirst: Taking action beyond #16DaysofActivism

Unfortunately, gender-based violence is a harsh reality of everyday life for the majority of South African women. Here's what's being done to not just take a stand but also act to end GBV this #16DaysofActivism and beyond, with UN Women's global #OrangetheWorld campaign.
Screengrab from the 'Republic of Sexual Abuse' (RSA) video.
Screengrab from the 'Republic of Sexual Abuse' (RSA) video.

16 Days of Activism is a worthy annual international awareness campaign that launched in 1991. It starts on 25 November and ends on 10 December, but some ask if it’s enough and whether we can afford to act so slowly.

Awareness alone cannot create change; actions create change

Because recent statistics have proven we still need to stand together all day, every day to turn the tide.

There’s no denying that femicide is a global problem with devastating impact, but we feel it more intensely here in South Africa. We have one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world – a problem that is likely understated because crimes of this nature tend to go unreported.

Added to this, about 3,000 women in SA were murdered in 2018 – that’s one every three hours. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms it's more than five times higher than the global average.

Just running an eye over the local trending hashtags in this regard is a chilling snapshot of the current lack of safety:

#MakeitSafe #Enoughisenough #AmINext #JusticeForNene #iamNOTnext #WomenDontOweYouShit #StopKillingUs #FemicideinSA

Clearly, more needs to be done, not just said – fast.

So it’s especially fitting that we pay attention to this year’s #16DaysofActivism theme, which launched at the end of November: #OrangetheWorld:

It’s not a case of “all words, no action”, as many have already raised their voices to join protests to fight back for our safety.

It’s such a drastic state that the Republic of Sexual Abuse (RSA) exhibition is currently underway until 10 December at the Zone, Rosebank.

It’s a hard-hitting, impactful activation for People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), that comes with its own national flag and anthem, which demands the nation’s full attention.

Banking on behaviour change

The sentiment has proven so strong this year that numerous behaviour change campaigns took root before the #16DaysofActivism, such as SA-based #ItStartsWithMe crowdfunding campaign, launched by Wesley Mathew, Meltwater’s head of marketing for UKI and India, in association with Brothers For Life.

The campaign aims to raise R100,000 for programmes that seek to help change male-held beliefs and attitudes that contribute to violent behaviour against women.

On the backlash around the #MenAreTrash hashtag and why it’s so important for men to take a stand and not take offence when females say they don’t feel safe, Mathew says:

First off, I understand that no one likes being called "trash" on a personal level – but, as with any statement, it needs to be viewed in context. South Africa is wounded, and that hashtag is the symbolic representation of a lot of pain, frustration and fear all rolled into one. To me, #MenAreTrash is a clarion call for action on the part of men – not an attack on my character as a person. I think guys need to employ empathy here, and recognise that this is not an assault on them, but rather the symptom of a nation that's deeply hurting.
Imagine what it’s like, being a woman for a day...

That hurt runs deep, as the #EnoughisEnough survey run by Cosmopolitan earlier this year found that 89% of female respondents have been sexually harassed by men.

That’s why the title has invited eight male celebrities to take a pledge that donates to the United Nations’ global solidarity movement #HeforShe.

They're encouraged to "stand up against the BS that is the sexual harassment of women for #16DaysOfActivism."

But this is intended to raise awareness around gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa beyond just 16 days.

There's also the #NoExcuse five-year initiative, launched by Carling Black Label and Takuwani Riime, a consortium of non-governmental and civic organisations that focus on driving positive change amongst South African men last year.

It also initially ran during the last 16 Days of Activism, and is still going strong.

Forget not the children

But it’s not only adults at risk. A child also goes missing every five hours, and with 1,697 children going missing every year, the quicker you begin the search, the more chance there is of a positive outcome.

That’s why Missing Children South Africa (MCSA) shared a positive story every day in last year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

This year, a partnership between the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results at Wits University, UJ’s Africa Centre for Evidence, and the Institute for Security Studies has taken the torch further and launched an open source, interactive evidence map.

The map easily identifies research about the effects of policies and programmes aiming to reduce the violence against women and children in South Africa, to help policy-makers understand what works to prevent violence against women and children.

Becoming global warriors against GBV

It may seem the sentiment is being most strongly felt locally, but don’t forget this is a global movement, and everyone has the right to feel safe.

That’s why the 'Life Isn't Always What is Seems' Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) revelation Instagram video by Supergirl star Melissa Benoist has led to the #iStandwithMelissaBenoist hashtag trending, and the poem recited by Chanel Miller, AKA 'Emily Doe' – sexual assault survivor, artist and author of Know My Name - was so well received when she took to the podium at the recent Glamour Awards:

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(2/2) 11.11.19 Thank you @glamourmag. An honor to be surrounded by flipping incredible women. I’ll never forget that feeling. ✨�� Makeup: @sarahstaines Dress: @sachinandbabi Styled By: @shilpapnadella

A post shared by Chanel Miller (@chanelmillerknowmyname) on

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While writing Know My Name, I was constantly drawing as a way of letting my mind breathe, reminding myself that life is playful and imaginative. We all deserve a chance to define ourselves, shape our identities, and tell our stories. The film crew that worked on this piece was almost all women. Feeling their support and creating together was immensely healing. We should all be creating space for survivors to speak their truths and express themselves freely. When society nourishes instead of blames, books are written, art is made, and the world is a little better for it.

A post shared by Chanel Miller (@chanelmillerknowmyname) on

Actress Alyssa Milano, the voice behind the original #MeToo movement.

Milano's voice keeps fighting for an end and raising awareness throughout the annual #16DaysofActivism campaign:

But imagine if we all do our bit, if we no longer stand back and leave it to the celebrities to lead the conversation.

Imagine if we did something like this:

We need to share our experiences, support survivors and do what we can to end the scourge. Our women and girls are the future.

About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews AKA the #MilkshakeQueen, is former Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at Bizcommunity.com, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality, and of course, gourmet food and drinks! She can be reached on Twitter at @Leigh_Andrews.
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