“Reclaiming Our Pride” by Damaria Senne (for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign)

My friend Damaria Senne writes to us from Johannesburg, South Africa, about an international campaign “16 Days Against Gender Violence.” She lays out the problem, tells about the campaign, and gives practical steps for joining the Campaign Against Gender Violence. –JGR

by Damaria Senne

Most of the time I’m very proud to be South African and am happy to chat with my international friends about events that are taking place in my country. I’m proud of the way we have managed to stop apartheid without having a protracted civil war. I’m proud of the way we have created laws that protect all our citizens regardless of their race, gender, age or sexual orientation. And I’m proud of our history, our culture, or food and the stories that I hope we will pass on to the next generation.

Unfortunately, there are times when I’m not proud to be South African. Our crime rates are high, and there are even claims that we have the highest rape and murder incidences in the world. I don’t know if that is true. What I do know is that for a country that has a relatively small population (46 million) we reported between 66,000 to 70,000 cases of rape or sexual assault every year, from 2003 to 2010. Many more cases remain unreported.

We also have a high rate of instances of women and child abuse. Some of the cases are reported and dealt with according to the law, but a high rate remain unreported, or don’t make it to court. The editor of one of the major newspapers in this country (The Mail and Guardian) even went so far as to say that there is a war against women in this country. That is very disturbing.

Which is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign is a very big event in South Africa. Government departments, as well as non-profit organizations, have planned a number of activities to commemorate the event and to encourage South Africans to join the global campaign against gender violence.

About 16 Days Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

Support the campaign

There are many things, big and small, that you can do to support the campaign. Here are some of them:

–Blog about violence against women some time during the campaign period. Get your readers thinking about this problem and what they can do to help.

–Volunteer at a women’s shelter

–Make it a point to talk to your children, grandchildren, and other young people in your life about violence against women.

–Report the abuse if someone within your family or community is perpetrating violence another individual. And let’s not be blind. Violence against men and boys also happens with disturbing frequency, though it is not talked about that much.

As for me, I’m working with Shukumisa, a campaign that is coordinated by 26 non-profit organizations, to shake up society’s views on sexual violence. The organizations operate nationally/locally. Many of them plan to visit communities, get people talking, distribute material which encourage citizens to take action or get help if they are being abused.

I’ll leave you with a video of a public service announcement of an incident that took place in Johannesburg. This video was a test by a non-profit organization to assess our communities’ response to violence against women.

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  1. The first time I saw this ad I was so upset but not surprised. This is typical of what happens in reality.

    People are scared to get involved and fear intimidation after the fact. Fortunately, I’m not one of those people – fortunately for the victim, my neighbour who was beaten up by her husband earlier this year.

    I heard the screaming and the sounds of the smacks and fists as he was hitting her. The people living on his property hid in their cottages, the neighbours hid in their homes (this is not a popular family in our street as it is) and I just got mad.

    I yelled over the wall but he ignored me so I called the police, who promptly came and arrested him.

    Things have been very quiet over there – he came out of the property when he was released by the police and glared at me. I told him that I was not intimidated by him and that I was going to be watching him from there on out. He must have gotten the message 🙂

  2. Zahn, it’s a pleasure to know you:-) You make a difference in so many ways, and I’m glad that you are one of the people who does act when they see/hear abuse happening.

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