Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
This year marks the 24th year that the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign has run. It runs from 25th November to the 10th December every year, and this year the theme for the international campaign is: “From peace in the home to peace in the world: make education safe for all.”
One might reasonably ask how applicable this is in the South African context. How much gender-based violence do we actually have?
Prof Rachel Jewkes Director of the MRC Gender & Health Research Unit and Secretary of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative gave some staggering statistics on radio the other day. According to Jewkes, 1 in every 3 women in South Africa has been abused mentally or physically or has been raped, 3 women are killed by their husbands / partners every day in South Africa, and 25% of men in South Africa admit to either raping or abusing women.
Horrifying isn’t it? But it is not enough to be appalled, knowing this, we need to make a conscious decision to stand together, to take ownership of the problem and to take action to eradicate it.
As a chamber, we’ve made the decision to invite people to join us in making a public stand against the abuse of women and children in South Africa. We will be “Bold in Black” on Thursday 10th December, gathering on the main arena at the Royal Showgrounds, dressed in black, to release black helium balloons in a show of solidarity against abuse.
Making a public statement is a start, but we need to take action too, and this year’s theme gives direction to that action.
Ownership starts at home and should carry through into the work place. We need to ensure that we teach our sons to respect women, we need to educate our daughters (and other people’s daughters too) so that they are not reliant on someone else for their survival. We need to empower women, encourage them, teach them to stand on their own two feet, and promote them in our work places. We must stand together and eradicate the vulnerability. As long as women are reliant on others for their survival, they are vulnerable to abuse. And abuse begets more abuse.
As Nobel Peace Laureate, Malala Yousafzai says ““if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.”
American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.”
Women of KwaZulu-Natal, we need to stand together and be courageous. We must speak up and speak out. All for one and one for all.
Let’s be led by Malala and say: ““To all the girls who have faced injustice and been silenced. Together we will be heard.” Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo!