16 Days of Activism: why we need to be agents of change 365 days a year

It’s day 15 of the 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence. Established in 1991 by activists at the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, 16 Days of Activism aims to bring awareness to the different forms of gender-based violence and ideally create change. According to UNWomen.org globally, this year saw 243 million women and girls experience abuse at the hands of a partner, with less than 40 % reaching out for help or support. With COVID-19 and lockdown implemented in many countries, domestic violence increased drastically just like in South Africa.

In the caption of our social media post yesterday, we mentioned that in South Africa a woman is murdered every three hours, which is five times more than the global average. As much as we wish this was an exaggeration, or only theoretical, we’re heartbroken that it’s not. To try and put this into perspective your average day lasts roughly 16 hours, that’s about 5 women who have their lives ripped away from them every single day in this country. Despite all the protests, horrific headlines, social media trends and hashtags combined with a government that’s doing next to nothing, a lot of the time it feels as though we’re trying to dig ourselves out of a hole that’s just getting deeper by the second.

It’s imperative that we don’t become complacent and wait for the next barbaric act that makes headlines, or rely on campaigns like 16 Days of Activism for us to feel the need to do something, create change or awareness. We need to channel this energy into our lives on a daily basis no matter how insignificant or small the action may seem. Calling out slut-shaming, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic comments or “jokes” is a simple way to begin. Yes, this can be incredibly daunting at first especially when these things are said by a loved one, but we need bravery in order to cut the head off this monster. Often people don’t see any harm in such comments or “jokes”, but these “small” things more often than not lead the way to the bigger things. And if they’re not checked early on they can quickly manifest into physical, financial, emotional or verbal abuse.

If you need support, know someone who needs support or would like to get involved in creating change or awareness here’s a few organisations throughout South Africa you can contact:

  1. Rape Crisis: Athlone, Khayelitsha, Observatory
  2. POWA: Soweto, Vosloorus, Katlehong, Evaton
  3. Triangle Project: Cape Town
  4. Sonke Gender Justice: Mpumalanga, Diepsloot, Cape Town
  5. Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre: Johannesburg