[notice]This week marks the start of the 16 days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children (November 25 to December 10) and Gateway News Volunteer Reporter Debbie Hemmens took the opportunity to look at how three Gauteng-based NGOs are tackling the gender violence problem.[/notice]
The 16 days campaign is an international initiative that raises awareness of gender violence and promotes sharing of strategies to combat the evil. South Africa — where more than a thousand women are killed every year by an intimate partner ,as many as a million rapes occur in a year, and gender violence costs the country billions of rands a year in lost economic growth — has participated in the 16 Days campaign for 15 years.
The official SA 16 Days campaign theme for 2014 is “Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa forward.” Activities include national prayer days, walks to create awareness and cleaning up of hot spots like open fields, high grass, dilapidated buildings and deserted areas. The Commemoration of International Human Rights Day on December 10 will mark the end of the campaign for 2014. Government departments will launch yearlong plans at a morning breakfast show at the final event – heralding the launch of a year-long programme which will monitor and evaluate the extent to which lives have improved through the implementation of laws and programmes aimed at eradicating violence against women and children.
Here is a quick overview of how the three NGOs are approaching violence against women and children.
TEARS is an organisation in SA making an innovative difference. Their teardrop logo is a symbol for weeping at the violence and degradation suffered by rape and abused victims; but, more importantly, it is a symbol of cleansing, healing and hope. They are a nationally accessible assistance and support network for victims of rape and sexual abuse. Their first level of assistance is a mobile portal. The person in need of help simply dials *134*7355# and their location will be tracked and within 45 seconds information will be sent back of details of the 3 nearest care facilities providing immediate support to victims of rape and sexual assault. If you are a rape or abuse service provider, TEARS wants to work with you so that you can be added to their database. TEARS aims to be an agent of transformation for all aspects for education about rape and sexual abuse in order to promote positive change in societal values and attitudes, where the right to say “NO” is upheld as a basic human right; where victims of rape and sexual abuse are treated with empathy and dignity; where access to legal, medical and psychological support is easily available to each and every member of society, regardless of gender, race or economic status.
They believe that work to end gender based violence will be more successful if it harnesses the power of collective action. Organised activism against gender based violence is a key way of creating transformative change on attitudes, norms and behaviours, as well as pushing for changes of policy and practice. TEARS handed over a petition on November 24 to the Premier of Gauteng requesting a new National Strategic Plan be instituted for GBV. This has proven itself in the past as an important tool to gain the political commitment and funding required for tackling large social challenges that need a co-ordinated response among diverse stakeholders. Contact Mara Glennie or Charlene Roberson on 082 448 9324/011-577 8600
Another NGO in Gauteng taking huge strides towards helping rape and abuse victims in our country is MatrixMen founded by Martin Pelders. They exist to support and assist survivors of abuse and sexual abuse. Pelders feels that the biggest problem with the 16 Days campaign is the time of year that it is held. He says that this is a time of year where businesses are winding up, children and students are writing exams and moms are planning holidays. By the time Christmas arrives, we have already forgotten the campaign. NGOs also have these 16 days to compete for column inches and airtime, and these tend to be in short supply. During the rest of the year, most newspapers and radio stations will say that they cover this subject during the 16 days, which is not always the case, and so many with a voice are silenced. This is an all year round battle.
Pelders suggests the following ways forward to assist the campaign:
• Education to children in schools. They need to know that abuse is not right. Many children grow up thinking this is the norm, that all families are like this. They are often afraid to speak up for fear of being mocked. If we teach our children that violence and abuse are not things that happen in normal, loving families, then we would be able to scratch open the dirty secrets that are being kept in homes.
• Debunking myths of abuse. Rape is not perpetrated by a stranger lurking under the street light. 95% of all rapes are by trusted family members and acquaintances.
• Educate our children about good touch and bad touch and bad secrets. Telling them to be honest and that their moms and dads are not allowed to touch them on their private parts. These are the basics that will lead to a healthy, less perverse, next generation of children.
• Churches have a vital role to play in the educating of our youth, but alongside that, also having an open and non-judgemental attitude towards victims of abuse.
• Churches need to move away from Christian counseling that says victims are possessed and just in need of deliverance.
• Good Bible based counseling with loads of love is what is needed with all pre-conceived ideas as to how God heals people, left at home.
• They like to train up recovered abuse victims and addicts to help others and find that they are filled with empathy and understanding for those they are helping.
• After education, the law becomes the next most important factor, as the more rapists and pedophiles that are prosecuted, the less likely they are to perpetrate. Being a pedophile in jail is not an attractive position to be in.
• Matrix Men are prepared to offer training to church members who would like to get involved in counseling survivors of rape and sexual abuse. If they so wish, their names can be given to the local police station, to be called on when necessary. You will learn how to counsel, what the sexual violence laws are all about, what the police are required to do and how to safe-guard and gather DNA evidence. Contact Martin Pelders on 078 457 4911
Heartreach have an education programme in many primary and high schools in Gauteng and some in KwaZulu-Natal. They have a “Be Safe” programme designed for younger children on good and bad touch and how to say no and stay safe. For older children they speak openly about keeping sex for marriage and have open and honest talks about sex with its emotional and physical risks, unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS. They are all about bringing hope and bringing healing. If you would like them to speak at a school near you, please contact Shelley McLean on 082 330 1437
That is just 3 Gauteng based NGO’s making a difference in our country. There are many more out there fighting this huge battle. Just this week in the news these three stories have surfaced on social media: Pot of boiling chicken poured on baby, 8 year old so violently raped that she needed a full hysterectomy, and a video that went viral of a baby being tortured by her nanny. We need to get angry and we need to get active. The time for sitting back passively is over. You too can make a difference to bringing all the violence and abuse in SA to an end. You have a voice to bring about awareness and to report any abuse you witness or hear about.
Many of these NGO’s need more volunteers to get involved, and if you cannot give of your time, then please consider supporting them financially. I find it totally unacceptable that some of them are not able to get on and do what they need to do because of not having the finances to do so. Find out the contact details of some NGOs and send them encouraging messages of support. “Sometimes it gets lonely out there!” says one of the organisers. Then, prayer support on a daily basis is vital and that’s something we can all do. Shelley McLean of Heartreach always has people praying when someone is presenting at a school and she says she can feel the difference. We serve a powerful God!
To end off, 2 quotes by Edmund Burke..
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing!”
“Nobody made a greater mistake then he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”