Almost everyone will be conscious for the next few days around issues of gender based violence as we observe the 16 Days campaign. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign is an annual, United Nations (UN) endorsed, awareness-raising Campaign that begins on the 25th of November and runs through until the 10th of December. South Africa adopted the 16 Days Campaign in 1998 as one of the intervention strategy towards creating a society free of violence.
The Campaign has also been extended to include issues relating to violence against children. But what continue to be worrisome are reports that one wakes up to. Women and children are targeted in their homes, streets, churches, schools, parks, post office and everywhere else. There is no place to hide for vulnerable groups. The sentence handed to the former post office worker Luyanda Botha for the double rape and murder of the former UCT student, Uyinene consoles women and gender activists. With festive season kicking in one cannot help but wonder who will be next?
Many reasons have been cited as root cause of this heinous crime. According to saferspaces.org.za, a website for gender activists, the ultimate driver for gender based violence is inequalities rooted in patriarchy. Harmful gender norms, wherein gender stereotypes are often used to justify against women and children
That being said financial dependency has also been identified as one of the key factors contributing to the scourge. Eighty-five percent of women who leave an abusive relationship return to them. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a significant proportion of women who return to the relationship attribute their inability to deal with their finances as a major contributing factor, which is often enhanced by the fact that the abuser often has all of the economic and social standing and complete control over the family finances.
The Orange Day Campaign was launched in July 2012, this campaign is commemorated globally on the 25th day of every month with the aim of raising public awareness and increased political will towards ending the global pandemic of violence against women and children around the world. The campaign’s vision is to achieve a world free from violence and the threat of violence.
Subsequently the Orange Day concept was introduced to EDCON. The Edcon partnership with the Gauteng Department of Social Development, Department of Community Safety, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and the South African National Fashion Council was launched on 25 November 2015.
As part of the flagship initiative, the first group of thirty-six (36) women from shelters for abused women were trained to obtain sewing skills in the province. This programme was rolled out to two other provinces wherein the Department of Social Development and shelters work together with Edcon to empower women from shelters with skills that will improve their livelihood. To date Edcon has trained just over 200 gender based violence survivors.
This programme continues to improve the lives of these women as they become economically viable and as government we will stop at nothing until women and children are free of any form of abuse. Financial freedom is, but one of positive means of breaking. The campaign empowered survivors with sewing skills. An unintended outcome was the level of healing that women experienced during the Edgars Unite Campaign. Today these women are entrepreneurs, seamstresses, employed, have formed cooperatives. and they continue to be a ray of hope for others who find themselves in similar situations.
These partnerships are necessary as we acknowledge as government that we cannot fight the scourge of violence alone. We need all of us to work together to put an end to this and create an environment that is safe for our women and children. As we observe the 16 Days campaign let us celebrate such partnerships for the betterment of society, let us celebrate what these beneficiaries have yielded because we found each other. The number might not be much as every day the victims of gender based violence escalates, but we can strive to make a sustainable difference in moving from victims to victors, we will one day win this uphill battle.
Busi Kheswa is the Deputy Director at the Department Social Development located in Gauteng, South Africa.