19 November 2015

South Africa: #16days of Activism in South Africa and the World

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign starts on 25 November and runs until 10 December, and will once again highlight violence against women and children.

As usual, South Africa will be at the forefront of efforts to address and eradicate the problems of gender violence with a variety of events, government legislation and awareness drives to take the issues to a wider audience.

The Global 16 Days of Activism

The 16 Days global campaign started in 1991, during the first Women's Global Leadership Institute held by the Center for Women's Global Leadership.

(Image: Infographic by the World Health Organization)

Participants at the institute established the campaign, which includes International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November and World Aids Day on 1 December. The institute choose to symbolically link International Day Against Violence Against Women on 25 November and International Human Rights Day on 10 December in the campaign.

International Day Against Violence Against Women was first declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Violence against women and children takes many forms:

Physical violence: domestic violence, violent crime such as murder, robbery, rape and assault;

Emotional violence, trauma, sexism and discrimination in homes, at work, at schools, on our streets, in communities; and,

Violence of poverty, starvation, humiliation and degradation against women and children.

(Image: Infographic by the World Health Organization)

The commemoration is a way to symbolically link violence of all kinds against women and children, to the violation of human rights. The campaign is an organising strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by, among others:

Raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at local, national, regional and international levels;

Strengthening local work around violence against women;

Establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women;

Providing a forum in which organisers can develop and share new and effective strategies;

Demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world in organising against violence against women; and,

Creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women.

(Image: Infographic by the World Health Organization)

(Image: Infographic by the World Health Organization)

#16Days in South Africa

In South Africa, Day of Reconciliation on 16 December follows a few days after the campaign. It is a further effort to foster reconciliation and national unity.

The white ribbon commemorates 16 Days of Activism and symbolises peace and commitment to non-violence. (Image: Department of Women)

South Africa adopted the campaign in 1998 as one of the intervention strategies towards creating a society free of violence. The campaign continues to raise awareness among South Africans about the negative impact of violence against women and children on all members of the community.

Objectives of the 2015 #16Days campaign:

Attract all South Africans to be active participants in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.

Expand accountability beyond the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to include all government clusters and provinces.

Combine technology, social media, the arts, journalism, religion, culture and customs, business and activism to draw attention to the many ways violence against women and children affects the lives of all people in all communities around the world.

Ensure mass mobilisation of all communities to promote collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.

Encourage society to acknowledge that violence against women and children is not only a government or criminal justice system problem, but a societal problem, and that failure to view it as such results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities.

You and #16Days: what you can do

Support the campaign by wearing a white ribbon during the 16 days. The white ribbon is a symbol of peace and the commitment of the wearer to never commit or condone violence against women and children.

Participate in the various 16 Days of Activism events and activities. For a full list of national events, click here.

Volunteer in support of NGOs, organisations and community groups that support abused women and children. You can volunteer your time and make a contribution to the work of institutions. Help plant a garden at a shelter, sponsor plastic tables and chairs for children at a clinic or join an organisation as a counsellor. Use your skills and knowledge to help victims of abuse. Click here for a list of organisations in South Africa.

You can also:

Speak out against woman and child abuse.

Encourage silent female victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help.

Report child abuse to the police.

Encourage children to report bullying behaviour to school authorities.

Men and boys are encouraged to talk about abuse and actively discourage abusive behaviour.

Seek help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner and/or children. Call the Stop Gender Based Violence helpline on 0800 150 150.

Talk to friends, relatives and colleagues to take a stand against abuse of women and children.

Try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence.

Spread the message on social media using the white ribbon symbol and hashtag #16Days.

What the government is doing

The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill gives the government the legislative authority to fast-track the empowerment of women and address issues of enforcement and compliance towards the attainment of the country's target of 50/50 gender parity.

On 6 June 2011, the government launched the Strategy and Guidelines on Children Working and Living in the Streets. This strategy provides guidance on the services and programmes to be rendered to children living and working on the streets.

The Green Paper on Families seeks to strengthen and support families as the cornerstone of a well-functioning society.

Since 1994, the government has developed several pieces of legislation to redress the wrongs affecting women and children.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act fights the trafficking of people, as well as the practice of ukuthwala, a form of abduction that involves a man and his friends and peers kidnapping a girl or a young woman with the intention of compelling the woman's family to agree to marriage.

For a full list of events being held and legislation by the government during #16Days, click here.

By South Africa.info reporter

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