By: Antoinette Stafford Cloete, Health Systems Trust Communications Manager
Nearly 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime. Some have been abused multiple times by multiple perpetrators. During times of crisis such as wars and, currently, the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation worsens for women.
In 1979 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and in 2008 launched an initiative called UNiTE to End Violence against Women, but despite their endeavours, violence against women and girls remains pervasive.
Globally, many countries flout the policies of international bodies such as the United Nations by continuing to maintain practices that disadvantage female victims of abuse.
As in the past, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which starts on 25 November, launches 16 Days of Activism and concludes on 10 December, which is recognised as International Human Rights Day.
Orange the World
To raise awareness around the scourge of women abuse the theme, "Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now" has been adopted as the theme for 2021. Orange is a colour representative of a brighter future, free of violence against women and girls.
The campaign has been led by the UN Secretary-General and UN Women since 2008 and aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls globally by promoting advocacy, and creating awareness and opportunities for dialogue on solutions.
In 2017, the European Union (EU) and the UN launched the Spotlight Initiative, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by raising the awareness of this issue, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Why is addressing gender-based violence such an important issue?
Violence in society affects us all.
Research conducted world-wide shows a direct correlation between violence against women and the weakening of social fabric, an increase in civil oppression, and the use of sexual oppression as a tool of war.
It doesn't have to be this way.
The right policies and programmes can work towards tackling the root causes of violence, thereby protecting the rights, bodies and minds of women and girls.
What about South Africa?
Unfortunately, enduring abuse is a reality for too many women and children in South Africa. The rights of women and children are fundamental human rights protected by our national Constitution. Gender-based and child violence, in all its different forms, devalues human dignity and the self-worth of the abused person and must be eliminated. For this to work we need to adopt a multi-fold strategy to deal with identifying abuse, supporting the victims, doing better at incarcerating and/or rehabilitating the perpetrators and educating society as a whole.
Why is this campaign important?
Creating awareness around the various forms of abuse and how it infringes on your human rights is important because many people undergo daily hardship at the hands of people, invariably, who are closest to them such as an intimate partner or father. Recognising abuse is a big step towards working towards eliminating it from society since many forms of abuse have become common-place and have remained unchecked over time.
What is abuse?
It can be described as any form of harm where someone or a group of people are:
No-one should have to live in such fear of reprisal because of another's need for control. That is why the campaign seeks to educate society about recognising the signs of abuse and what to do in situations where abuse is suspected via governmental, private sector, civil society, media, not-for-profit organisations and other entities.
It seeks to generate an increased level of awareness among all South Africans about violence against women and children and to empower society with information and support services that can help reduce the impact of abuse.
At the Health Systems Trust (HST) we run programmes such as The Unfinished Business for Adolescent and Paediatric HIV that works to support the health system in districts in the KwaZulu-Natal province with testing of the under-19 years of age group to get them on treatment. Adolescent girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to predators and are at risk of infection because of rape and transactional sex. These are issues that are also dealt with at health facilities through what is known as Adolescent Youth-friendly services.
HST's MINA programme
Men and boys, in particular, need to be engaged in the discourse around eradicating violence in our homes, communities and the workplace. Because most societies have historically been patriarchal, unequal ways of doing have developed over time that have entrenched ideologies that women are inferior, are property, should be home-based, have no voice, etcetera, even when living in countries that are constitutional democracies.
Big changes need to be made and will take the active participation of all levels of society.
What can you do?
Where to go for help?
You can contact the following organisations to report women and child abuse and to get more information:
HEALTH SYSTEMS TRUST - CONTACT DETAILS
1 Maryvale Road, Westville, Durban, 3630
+27(0)31 266 9090