Menu Close

Who is the 16 Days of Activism Campaign serving?

Add to my bookmarks
ClosePlease login

No account yet? Register

Share This Article:

Picture: SAPS Through the police’s dedication and commitment, between July and September this year, the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit arrested 4,375 perpetrators for crimes committed against women and children.

By Kamogelo Segone

Throughout the year social media platforms are spaces where people express their outrage regarding the sexual and gender-based violence crisis that has plagued society. Many women have expressed their dismay with campaigns because the policies meant to be implemented have not improved their lives. Author and public figure Lesego Tlhabi has taken to Instagram to ask women to anonymously share their experiences about what they are no longer able to do because of the violence.

Many women shared that they are afraid to do things like taking a jog, using public restrooms, shopping alone to name a few. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is observed annually in South Africa and it is a global campaign that started in the year 1991 as a result of Women’s Global Leadership Institute first meeting. Various stakeholders call for the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence; they offer support to victims and survivors alike. The 16-day period begins on November 25, which is the International Day of No Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day; this is exceptional on paper because women’s rights are often not prioritised as human rights.

The reality is that women are the most marginalised across all societies and their subjecthood is determined by those with authority according to the institution of patriarchy. Data collected by Afrobarometer shows that citizens have opinions on their living conditions, from the state of the economy to the states involvement in domestic violence cases; citizens’ trust in the government is rapidly decreasing due to the turn out of reported cases as well as the level of corruption within government institutions. This begs the question, what is the point of such campaigns if the government institutions themselves are riddled with corruption and do not meet the needs of citizens?

Data collected by UN Women purports that over 736 million women have been subjected to sexual and/or gender-based violence at least once in their life. This is a global figure based on reported cases however the data also shows that violence against women disproportionately affects women in developing regions and it does not account for the unreported cased. Many countries observe the 16-day period and it is no coincidence that they are signatories to different conventions within the United Nations.

South Africa is one of the signatories and the theme for this year’s campaign is “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!” which suggests that even though violent acts are perpetrated against women, it is women’s responsibility to be resilient and that is a problematic disposition. Women should not have to build resilience against this social ill, the perpetrators and the society that accommodates these perpetrators must be dealt with. If the government wants to initiate projects that result in substantive change which improves women’s living conditions, there are a number of things that should be taken into consideration but this article will suggest a few.

Firstly, the use of language is important, communication specialists would know that the kind of language used by an organisation in a campaign will either make or break the success thereof. Therefore, the government is responsible to create campaigns using terms that do not allude that victims are to be blamed; the campaign must serve women and not suggest that they endure abuse.

Secondly, the government should consider approaches that are inclusive and accessible to all members of society. This means policies are not created without women for example, and these policies must be informed by people on the grassroots. It cannot be left to academics and policy makers to decide what the issue is and how it must be remedied, the approaches must be citizen-centred.

Thirdly, if initiatives are about building resilience, they cannot be in the form of once off dialogues. All stakeholders should help victims and survivors deal with the trauma; therefore, the poor accessibility to interventions by psychologists and social workers must be addressed.

Finally, in initiatives that address sexual and gender-based violence women are in high attendance; what is the governments approach in ensuring that these drives appeal to men? Men need to be part of the solution to the problem so that the responsibility does not lie on women alone. Different stakeholders must prove that they are initiating these projects to improve communities and not just to receive funding from bodies like the UN. The proof will be in their commitment and execution of on-going projects; a consistent and relevant approach within a community yields results.

Kamogelo Segone is a research assistant at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation.