“Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”
Consider your hands for a second – what are they used for? Do they work tirelessly to provide for your family? Do they give to charity when able? Are they used for loving or are they used to inflict harm on others? Are they perhaps used to shield you from harm instead?
In 1998, South Africa signed up to partake in an international awareness drive called the 16 Days of Activism on Violence against Women and Children. As a part of this initiative, South Africans, and people from all over the world, take a stance against social injustices against women and children and create a platform for victims to not only have their say, but to raise awareness about the issues surrounding violence and abuse. Since then, every 25th of November to 10th of December has been set aside to honour the cause.
On the 15th of October 2017, actress Alyssa Milano sparked an awareness campaign to show the scale and magnitude of the issue of violence and abuse against women by tweeting: "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Challenging the normalisation of silencing gender-based violence, many followed suit and the hashtag went viral – on the same day it was used more than 200,000 times, and a day later 500,000 times. On Facebook, the hashtag had been used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours.
16 Days of Activism on Violence against Women and Children is not enough
Nearly 20 years on, the issue around violence and abuse still remains as relevant now as it was in 1998. Though strides have been made, we need to do better. Saying ‘no’ to violence is simply not enough; a conversation needs to be had and actions need to follow from them. “Collaboration isn’t an option, it’s the only solution”, said Msichana Kuria on Twitter. The way forward requires all voices to speak up and be heard, including those of men – especially those of men.
Executive Director of United Nations Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, wants everyone to know that responding with silent anger is not enough — we have to get loud. She further reiterates:
It's a conspiracy against women when good men do nothing; when good men look the other way; when good men joke about these issues. That actually gives the perpetrators permission to carry on because it's not such a big deal. So we actually need to snap out of this casual discussion about the issue and looking the other way and be active and be loud about what you regard as unacceptable[…]I do not believe that the majority of men in the world would like to hurt women, but they can be very complacent, and that is just as bad.
What can we do?
For starters, forget the notion that the issue is far removed from you and your reality – it can happen to anyone. Apart from the usual show of solidarity of wearing your white ribbon of peace, here are other ways to make a difference during this critical time:
Speak up and speak out
Be vocal about your opinions on violence and abuse. Encourage conversations and open dialogues to spread awareness about the issue. By doing this, you challenge the normative silence surrounding the matter and create a platform for people to confront these realities. Most importantly: DO NOT LOOK AWAY! Report any signs of abuse and encourage others to do so as well.
Dedicate time and effort to aiding those who are affected. As I mentioned before, it can happen to anyone, and if not to your mother, daughter, sister, niece or friend, then to someone else’s. They need your help and if you are in a position to do so, then get involved.
Practice activism every day
Though the drive runs for only 16 days, it is important to keep its message and practices in place all 365 days of the year. The only way to achieve equality is through collaborative effort and commitment.
Published by Niyaal Rakiep