Government and non-governmental organisations are coming together to strengthen efforts to curb gender-based violence.
Representatives from numerous government departments and NGOs dealing with gender-based violence (GBV) in the country met in Tshwane on Thursday to map out ways to deal with the problem.
During the intra-governmental knowledge sharing forum on GBV, which was organised by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the lack of women empowerment, inequality and patriarchal values and norms in society were highlighted as major contributors to the increasing number of cases of gender based violence.
Amongst the issues that were raised was that most women are scared to leave abusive relationships and marriages because they rely on their abusers economically, and the abusers are aware that they are needed, hence the violence continues. Other women go as far as withdrawing criminal charges laid against their abusers because they feel like they need them.
However, other representatives called on men to do away with the patriarchal norms that drive them to assume power and control over women and to avoid taking out their frustration on women and children.
They said most men who were abusers suffer emotionally and financially and they do not turn to anyone for support, which leads them to taking out their frustrations on those who are vulnerable. Society has also taught men that they should not be weak, and that crying is a sign of weakness, which also frustrates them and causes them to act violently when they are in a vulnerable state.
For the society to heal and be peaceful, both men and women need to treat each other with respect and dignity, forum delegates said.
GCIS Acting Deputy Director General for Content Processing and Dissemination, Tasneem Carrim, spoke to SAnews about the importance of the collaboration between government and NGOs to address gender-based violence.
"What is required is some unity in action. If we unite and bring our resources together, collaborate better and learn from each other, we can end the scourge of gender based violence in our society.
"The issues that we face in our society are not new; they have been there for a long time, and because of environmental circumstances like unemployment, inequality and poverty, some of these issues remain and they fester until something blows," said Carrim.
She said no one sector can solve these issues alone. Government has to work with NGOs and communities, and NGOs need government's support because they need the regulatory authority. "We all need each other."
She said government discovered in today's session that there are many NGOs and government institutions that are facing problems that include funding, planning and lack of support; and these disable them from addressing problems facing society.
Prevention is better than cure
Amongst representatives who spoke out against violence was television personality and activist Angie Diale, who spoke a bit about her experience of surviving gender-based violence.
"From a personal perspective, having survived gender-based violence and having watched my mother survive it, as well as potential femicide, I am hoping that everyone who was here today is going to put in extra effort when they go back to their communities to ensure that they respond effectively to the issues that were raised.
"The most important thing is that we should have a very strong preventative structure in place that will filter from basic education foundation phase right up to all households in South Africa and the media. If we can have one clear message that is strong, and always in our faces and ears every day, we will definitely see change in our society," said Diale.
Given the recent spate of cases of gender-based violence and killings of women, many young girls and women no longer feel safe in their communities.
Diale said many young women are now even scared of getting into relationships because they fear for their lives. Violence and the killing of women has changed the dynamics in many families and even at work places, she said.
"When walking in a public area, you are very self-conscious... you don't trust anyone. This has to change," said Diale.
She encouraged young women to never stop speaking about abuse so that the abusers can face the law, and this will also help them to heal because the more they talk about their pain, the less painful it will become.
She urged girls to forgive themselves when they have "wronged themselves", and to learn to walk away from toxic relationships while they still can.
Her message to young boys was that they should never think that abuse will solve any problems, and that they must love themselves so that they will be able to love other people.