Gender-based violence campaign update – South Africa

According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. This human right violation has caused long-term and life-threatening injury and trauma to victims. The number of victims among women and children increased significantly during level 5 of the national lockdown (COVID 19) in South Africa. This brought a fear that the victims would be trapped inside with their abusers, unable to leave, escape or reach out for help. Social media and newspapers, along with specialists and professionals have tried to explain the possible reasons of this alarming phenomenon. The analysis of those reasons is beyond comprehension, but one aspect which attracted our attention is how the victims often protect or justify the actions of their abusers.

We, the Gen 2 girls, and the Muslim community (Turquois Harmony Institute) in South Africa realised that we needed to do something to address this issue and help those that were being ill-treated. We started by having a conference where we shared ideas of what an ideal woman is so that we could empower and encourage women and help change the perception men have of women. The aim of the project was to promote a more complete and positive idea of women in our society. We addressed the image of a woman commonly accepted in our society, which is that women are weak, passive, dependent and as mere objects of entertainment. This intercultural and interreligious dialogue led to a total of 14 characteristics of an ideal woman. We then made images with these characteristics and added a detailed explanation to each characteristic.

A campaign was then launched on the 25th of November which corresponded with the start of the international 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. We invited our brothers and sisters across the African continent and asked them to post the images on social media along with a phrase of hope and encouragement for all women. We have since impacted on people’s lives who were able to follow the posts and have received feedback on the importance of our initiative from different people. The campaign also positively impacted on the lives of young people including Gen 2 girls and boys who were able to reflect on the characteristics and live them out. As a result of this interreligious dialogue, we have now built a strong relationship with the Muslim community and continued planning several activities with them. We hope to have impacted many lives through this initiative and lifted the dark cloud of violence hanging over our country.