Over the past two decades of my life as a public representative, I have seen South Africans coming together on many occasions to collectively find solutions to the many challenges that face our country.
As developing nation, South Africa will be faced with various challenges at each phase of our development. But in all the challenges we have faced as a nation since 1994, there has never been a challenge that is too big to solve for the people of South Africa. Our nation is battling with a host of challenges and one of these is a problem of gender-based violence and Femicide, a problem that has reached worrying proportions.
According to the latest report released by Statistics South Africa on gender based violence, 70 813 women experienced sexual offences in 2016/ 2017 as compared to 31 665 in 2015/2016. This is over hundred percent increase in violence against women and children.
These figures a cause for concern. Following requests from various organisations, President Ramaphosa appointed his Special Advisor working with the Department of Justice to lead the process to convene a Presidential Gender Summit. The Summit is scheduled to take place over two days starting on 1 November 2018 in Centurion.
South Africans from all walks of life will join this summit as we unite as a nation against the scourge of gender-based violence. We will use this occasion to renew our commitment to call for an end to brutal and dehumanising behaviour by some in our society.
I have no doubt that we all agree that it is fitting that we dedicate this summit and its deliberations to one of our fearless fighters for freedom, for the rights of women and children, struggle stalwart and the mother of our nation, Mama Albertina Sisulu whose centenary we are celebrating this year. Mama Sisulu, together with another struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, dedicate her life to safety and prosperity of women and children of our country. We therefore owe it to them to intensify the struggle they waged, so that we achieve the objective of no violence against women and children.
As we deliberate at the summit to find solutions to the problem of gender-based violence, we need to remind ourselves of the important role women play in the socio-economic and political development of our country. Men in our society need to know that the protection of women rights is an important and integral part of our programme for unity, nation building and renewal.
Through this summit, government and civil society agree that the time has come for gender-based violence and Femicide to be given the urgency it deserves by all South Africans. All of us must take the issue of women abuse very seriously and we must be reminded that women and children living in conditions of poverty and deprivation are most exposed to all forms of abuse and they need to be protected.
To ensure that we make a real difference through this summit and reduce the incident of violence against women and children, as government we must work harder to improve the material lives of women across our country. At the same time, we must work with communities to raise awareness that everyone can play a role to end violence against women and children.
In this regard, we need to pay immediate attention in building active community policing forums, strengthening the relationship between government and civil society, ensure men become part of the dialogue to end women abuse and making sure our criminal justice system responds harshly to perpetrators of abuse. We need to improve the capacity of the state to meet its obligation in all these areas. The work of the police, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Social Development as well as that of Justice is central to this work.
However, as we carry out this work together to end women abuse, we will face a concerted campaign to undermine our efforts by those who perpetrate these gruesome acts of abuse against women and children. They will underplay the progress we are making by continuing to abuse women in our communities. We should not be deterred by this small section of our population.
Civil society organisations must support us in the work to rid our society of abuse and should not allow themselves to be pitted against their own government. I also call on political organisations, the religious communities, sports organisations, civic associations and women’s and youth organisations to join us in this fight.
I am certain that the Presidential gender summit will reflect critically on initiatives to date and identify actions of improvement in the fight against gender-based violence and Femicide. This is a time for collective but constructive engagement. But more important, the summit must increase the mobilisation of the entire nation to continue to fight gender-based and child-directed violence and marginalisation.
Nomvula Mokonyane is the Minister of Communications