The killing of women is five times higher in South Africa than the global average – with South Africa having the fourth-highest female interpersonal death rate out of the 183 countries listed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Non-profit organisation, TEARS Foundation is launching its 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) awareness campaign to start an important conversation online and create positive behaviour changes towards GBV.
TEARS Foundation invites men to stand with women and children and take a pledge against GBV.Murder, rape and sexual offences were the contact crimes that showed the highest increase in the three months from July to September 2021, according to the latest quarterly crime statistics.
“DNA testing is in arrears, the South African Police Service is letting down survivors of gender-based violence, and they are being denied justice,” says Mara Glennie, founder and director of TEARS Foundation.
Referred to as South Africa’s second pandemic, GBV spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe on women and children, resulting in a loss of income and employment, with women being affected disproportionately.
Earlier this month Statistics South Africa reported that among the live births recorded in 2020, over 33 000 births occurred to mothers aged 17 years and younger, while over 600 children aged 10 – 13 years gave birth. This means that the country recorded almost 35 000 teenage mothers in 2020. Over 23 000 were recorded in Gauteng. “Such shocking statistics reflect a need for national introspection and highlight how rape advocacy work requires the inclusion of all society, as this pandemic affects all of us, not just women and children,” says Glennie.
Through the I am a MAN campaign – encouraging men to be aware, accountable, and active, TEARS Foundation is reaching out to men, inviting them to consider their own personal behaviour and empowering them with the knowledge to stand with women and children against GBV.
“We are all aware of the country’s violent history, which may have created the prevalence of violence, be it structural or otherwise, that the country is facing currently. As the majority perpetrators of rape and gender-based violence, male intervention is key if we want to put an end to this extreme burden on our society,” she says “For us, it’s about women and children, with the support of men. Women shouldn’t have to fight the battle against GBV alone and men should be part of the solution. Through these dialogues we want to reach men and boys and empower them with the knowledge to stand with women against GBV.”
As part of the campaign, men will be encouraged to take a pledge online to acknowledge that there is no small act of GBV, to speak up against gender-based violence and sexism and to lead the fight against this scourge.
“We are calling for men to initiate a new beginning; men can change today and stand up against GBV,” says Glennie. “Standing up against GBV starts with acknowledging there is a problem and that every man is part of the solution. Recognising that rape, abuse, and other forms of GBV are happening in their community, workplace, school or church, and reporting it, is an important first step men can take,” she says.
The I am a MAN campaign offers practical, tangible and simple tips to men so that they can take responsibility and create a positive behaviour change towards GBV.
“Male involvement is needed if we are to successfully change the discourse surrounding rape, from one that views rape as solely a female issue,” she says. From a very basic perspective, rape affects men too as it may be their sister, wife or a female colleague who is raped or in some cases men themselves. Some of the tips include to:
Create a violence-free environment for their family members.
Be aware of the violence and abuse in their community and acknowledge it is a problem.
Be accountable for their actions, beliefs, and treatment of the women around them.
Be active – educate themselves about GBV, start tough conversations with friends, or sign the TEARS Foundation pledge against GBV.
Report any form of wrongdoing to authorities. It is not about them as men; it is about the victim.
TEARS Foundation is the custodian of a comprehensive database, consisting of a network of services, to support and assist survivors of rape and sexual abuse nationally, 24-hours a day. In addition to the free USSD service that is available to anyone who has access to a cellphone, the organisation leverages technology and cloud applications to deliver resources for corporates and employers, schools, educators and clinicians. TEARS Foundation is a member of the Shukumisa coalition of over 60 organisations across South Africa working against sexual violence.
Educational resources that are accessible to the public via the TEARS Foundation website include short training videos for men, lessons for children on consent and patriarchy as well as a 24/7 helpline.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is a yearly civil society initiative that starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, international Human Rights Day. The United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign calls for global actions to increase awareness, spur advocacy efforts and share knowledge.
According to the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS 2016), one in four ever-partnered women age 18 or older have experienced intimate partner physical, sexual, or emotional violence in their lifetime. Violence against women remains a pandemic with women struggling to live with dignity, enjoy economic freedom and incapable of feeling safe.
“We have to stop gender-based violence and we are giving tools to men to be Aware, Accountable and Active in the fight against GBV. They can become the new partner, husband and friend, and be the change to end GBV. We invite men to show their support to the women in their lives by signing the pledge against GBV,” concludes Glennie.