The Covid-19 national lockdown has led to an increase in Gender-Based Violence cases, seeing that a lot of people are still working from home. This has been evident with Ever since Vodacom’s GBV command centre (GBVCC) reporting a spike in gender violence-related calls during the lockdown. The telecommunications company launched the centre in partnership with the Department of Social Development in 2014.
On the 25th of August, the Vodacom Foundation hosted a GBV webinar on 25 August, which aimed to shed light on the impact of GBV and how to overcome it. During the webinar, Vodacom also announced the launch of a R5m Gender-Based Violence Fund to further support survivors of GBV.
The virtual event was facilitated by Poet, Lebogang Mashile, Takalani Netshitenzhe of Vodacom South Africa; Masingita Masunga, inspirational speaker, TV director and philanthropist; Rosie Motene, Pan African queer and feminist and speaks on GBV and LGBTQI in Africa and Cheryl Hlabane, operations manager at Frida Hartley Shelter.
“Conversations have started in Vodafone, and Vodacom on these forms of discrimination, because the only way to stamp out racism, gender and class discrimination is to first acknowledge that there is a problem, that these forms of discrimination exist in societies in which we operate, and that it will not be tolerated in the workplace. Our global and group CEOs are taking the lead. These conversations, force all of us to introspect on the kind of culture we want to create for ourselves and for future generations,” said Netshitenzhe.
During the course of the webinar, the panel shared their personal experiences of GBV, discussed how society views survivors of GBV and challenges women face when leaving abusive relationships.“Many people don’t acknowledge the various levels and effects of GBV. People need to understand that abuse affects women in physiological and neurological ways. “We need to also acknowledge the strength it takes for survivors to speak out about their abuser as they often face scrutiny from different areas of our society,” said Motene.
Hlabane said the country needs to improve its structures to support survivors of GBV. “There is a large misconception that victims of GBV are weak. They are asked questions as to why they were abused or why did they not speak out sooner. We need to improve our structures to support survivors of GBV and improve funding towards support systems so that these survivors are not forced to stay in abusive relationships,” she said. On the other hand, Netshitenzhe believes that toxic masculinity is one of the biggest challenges in the workplace for women.
Vodacom’s GBV programmes focus on prevention, response and victim support. Response is through the GBVCC and victim support is provided through digital literacy offered in the shelters for victims and survivors of GBV. A mobile-based is expected to be launched later, developed as part of the prevention strategy.
The App will serve as a risk assessment tool for App users to determine if they are in an abusive relationship so that they could seek help. Through this mobile-based App, the user will be able to compile and keep a journal of abusive incidents that could serve as evidence during criminal investigation and prosecution. The App is intended to augment prevention and response focus.