'Taking back the night'

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Hundreds of marching women brought Hillbrow to a halt on Saturday night.

Called "Take back the night", the march launched the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence against Women and Children campaign in Johannesburg.

The evening demonstration sparked curiosity from local residents, some of whom joined in.

"We're reclaiming places that are now unsafe for women and children," said Colleen Lowe Morna, who is the spokesman for Gender Links.

The group gathered outside the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein and marched to Hillbrow carrying placards bearing 16 demands. The demands were later submitted to Gauteng MEC for Safety and Security Firoz Cachalia.

The demands propose changes to the law to help survivors of gender violence.

"It is important to use the 16 days to revitalise popular and government action to end abuse against women and children," Cachalia said.

A change in attitude towards women and children was crucial to ending gender violence, he said.

"Communities face problems that cannot be solved by the law alone," Cachalia said.

The "I" Stories, a book of testimonies by survivors of gender violence, was also launched.

"Telling my story has helped me to heal," said Marco Ndlovu, a survivor featured in the book.

Dance performances and a candle lighting ceremony concluded the peaceful demonstration.

The march was a joint venture of the City of Johannesburg and non-governmental organisations including Gender Links, Gender and Media Southern Africa (Gemsa), and the One in Nine campaign. The march formed part of an international campaign that runs until December 10.