Speech delivered by Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, Diepsloot

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10 Dec 2014

Programme director

National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Riah Phiyega;

Councillor R. Makhubele

UNFPA Representative, Dr.Ester Muia;

Advocate for Social Cohesion, Mr. Patrick Solomons;

Gender activists;

Members of the community;

Members of the media;

Ladies and gentlemen

We are gathered here today to pay respect to women and children.

Every year from the 25th November which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to the 10th December, International Human Rights Day, marks the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, an awareness raising Campaign.

This year marks 60 years since the signing of the Women’s Charter in 1954 and 20 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa.

The theme in South Africa, this year is, “Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”.

This awareness campaign is to ensure mass mobilisation of all communities to promote collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children. This is not a government or criminal justice system problem alone but a societal problem and failure to view it as such results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities.  The solution therefore lies with all of us!

We need to speak out against this violence and report it to the police. We, who are mothers, need to bring up our sons to respect women!  Encourage those who are abusive to their partners or children to seek help. We must understand how our own attitudes and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence.

We are facing a low grade war when we look at the levels of violence being meted out to women and children.  This year’s global campaign theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women”. 

Gender equality and relations are ultimately about power and power relations which, if we define the use or the abuse of power, we see how it affects us in the home, community, society and country.

We need to interrogate and understand what is making women vulnerable to gender based violence and the institutionalized violence of poverty and inequality as well as what is preventing women from enjoying human rights?

Since 1994 Government has developed several pieces of Legislation to redress the wrongs affecting women and children.

The Department of Arts and Culture hosted the UNiTE Film Festival and workshop programme in support of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. This flagship programme is in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund.

This year the Department of Arts and Culture created various institutional platforms to encourage men to voice their support for social change that brings all citizens of this country together as part of a healing process.

The arts are a vehicle for providing a platform for national discourse and community conversation to transform mind sets and thus influence individual, and group behaviour to be agents of reconciliation and unity. This is intended to transform citizens into agents of the society they want to live in.

Film Festivals were held in Mthatha and Alexandra township showing films that deal with gender based violence. One film titled ‘Umhlola’  (Unspeakable) which was shown explores the root causes of gender based violence in South Africa, featuring two former rapists, a rape survivor and experts in the fields of sexual violence.

The high incidence of sexual violence in South Africa impacts both our society and our health. How do we begin to break this cycle which perpetuates younger and younger males inflicting violence on women? 

Umhlola is a hard hitting look at an exponentially growing crisis in South Africa and what is being done to stop this. It was directed by Maanda Ntsandeni and produced by Nelisiwe Ngobeni and is A Little Pond Production from the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking.

The Department of Arts and Culture has encouraged filmmakers, writers and visual artists to explore and express the pain, horror, humiliation of violence and the survival and overcoming of this hurt.  Many artists are doing so.

Women writers have also courageously tackled this problem in their books.  Ellen Kuzwayo wrote many books.  If Kuzwayo's political life was turbulent, so too was her marital life.

In her autobiography, Call Me Woman (1985), she recalled years of abuse by her first husband. When she finally fled her marital home, she had to leave her two sons behind.

She acted as a shebeen queen, alongside Sidney Poitier, in the film Cry, the Beloved Country (1951). She later re-married. She became a social activist as a teacher and community leader. She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 1999.

Another internationally known author is Maya Angelo, who passed away mid- 2014. She wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” in her autobiographical book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 

In her second autobiographical book, And Still I Rise, she wrote, “You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies,/ You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I’ll rise…”

This is Angelou’s iconic poem: a great shout of defiance that answers darkness with joy and despair with humour. She writes about the domestic violence she endured at the hands of her exiled South African husband.

“I am the dream and the hope of the slave… I rise/ I rise/ I rise”. Maya Angelo.  Nelson Mandela recited it at his 1994 presidential inauguration.

Many young African Women writers are dealing with gender issues in their writings. Allow me to mention two famous writers as a sample. 

Tsitsi Dangarembga in her book Nervous Condition gives strength to the woman’s voice, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Half of a Yellow Sun writes, “You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?” Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone.”

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. As it affects all of us, we all need to be involved. We must all try to create a safe family environment.

Let us volunteer our time and energy in support of a non-governmental organisation or a community group in the areas that we live in to help abused women and children. Live a life of purpose and get involved.

We need to speak out against women and child abuse and report child abuse to police immediately.  We must ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate sexual and violent material.

Men are critical partners in the fight against the abuse of women and children.

Encourage abusers to seek help. We need to be aware every day of the year.

Everyone is entitled to a safe and secure environment. Let us try to make our Constitution a living document.  It is the responsibility of each one of us to ensure that we build a better and safer South Africa!

I wish you all a happy festive season and a prosperous new year.

Thank you.