Conversations on urgency of ending Gender-Based Violence
These organisations and campaigns are making headway against gender-based violence in South Africa
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines gender-based violence (GBV) as “any act that that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.”
While it has several definitions, the general consensus is that GBV is violence perpetuated by gender role expectations in society that often require women to fit into predefined and oppressed gender roles.
According to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, GBV includes domestic, physical, emotional, economic, and sexual violence and femicide. South Africa has an extremely high prevalence of GBV that is comparable to a country at war.
In the face of this extremely violent reality, South African women find themselves with very few options for places to turn to — and, as a result, they are forced to stay in unsafe homes hoping for change and clinging to the hope that they might one day leave with their lives intact. In addition, GBV is meted out in different spaces in society: workplaces, public spaces, homes and elsewhere.
Foundations leading the way
As the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” In South Africa, hope comes in the form of organisations that work tirelessly to give support, shelter, and legal advice to GBV survivors while also raising societal awareness of the scourge.
Yellow for Survivors — a non-profit Leilani Kuter, who survived a brutal rape at age 18, founded — provides a safe space in which to recover after trauma.
In addition, through various initiatives, such as online and in-person self-defence classes, the organisation supports rape survivors, helps them heal, and gives them a voice after encountering trauma. yellowforsurvivors.co.za
Survivors of GBV are often quiet. They stay silent, fearing many things including further violence and societal stigma, especially since GBV is sometimes — perhaps too often — perpetrated by trust figures, such as religious leaders.
An organisation that has exposed GBV in churches and other religious spaces is the Kwanele Foundation. Through its platform Kwanele Mfundisi, it comes to the aid of “people who have suffered abuse at the hands of pastors and churches”. kwanele-foundation.org.za
Sadly, GBV sometimes ends in death. Carrying the name of the 19-year-old University of Cape Town student who was raped and murdered in 2019, the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation was established to fight all forms of injustice against women, empower young women to take a stand against violence, and urge the government to put an end to GBV.
Established in memory of Mrwetyana, this foundation offers holistic support services, including a safe haven and a support network for displaced survivors. It has also partnered with institutions of higher learning to develop gender-sensitive leadership skills. uyinenefoundation.co.za
Support near you
Some province- and community-specific organisations provide help and support.
In Limpopo, for instance, there is Life Savers Foundation based in the Makuya area near Thohoyandou. Unemployed members of this disadvantaged rural area established Life Savers in response to frequent incidents of GBV. Through empowerment, the foundation works to break the silence around violence and enable survivors to “fight back” by supporting them during court cases, preventing secondary victimisation, and providing shelter.
Another Limpopo-based organisation encouraging “an attitude of zero tolerance” towards domestic violence and sexual and other forms of abuse is Niani Victim Empowerment, which is operational in the Niani area within the Musina municipality. Niani protects, restores dignity to, and empowers survivors. Find Life Savers, Niani and similar organisations at saferspaces.org.za
In Diepsloot in the Johannesburg area, Green Door Survivor’s Life Line is a beacon of hope, a door to a safe space. This organisation provides temporary shelter for women who have survived abuse. facebook.com/greendoordiepsloot
Susters4Life supports single mothers, abused women, and children heading households in and around Worcester, Western Cape. This non-governmental organisation (NGO) educates and empowers to promote gender equality and parity and create awareness among abused women of their rights. susters4life.co.za
Also situated in the Western Cape is Ilitha Labantu, a social service and educational organisation addressing “violence against woman and children and supporting those affected by it”.
At Ilitha, survivors of GBV are counselled, empowered, given skills training, and provided with other easily accessible services. One of the organisation’s key offerings is a 24-hour helpline for survivors of GBV. Ilithalabantu.org.za
Hope comes in the form of organisations that work tirelessly to give support, shelter, and legal advice to GBV survivors while also raising societal awareness.
A growing number of household brands are throwing their weight behind countrywide efforts to counter GBV and support its survivors.
Joko Tea has, for example, partnered with People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) to help raise funds for the NGO to provide shelter, counselling, and legal advice to GBV survivors. Look out for the Joko box featuring the purple ribbon and the POWA logo — for every box sold, R1 goes to POWA. joko.co.za
Similarly, South African retail chain group Spar has partnered with LifeLine to upgrade and improve its 24-hour free call centre infrastructure. As part of its bright-orange-themed End GBV campaign, Spar is providing much-needed funding to ensure there’s enough trained, professional counsellors to manage calls to LifeLine from people — both survivors and perpetrators — in need of GBV support.
The sub-Saharan broadcasting company MultiChoice has offered government and civil society organisations a platform for speaking out, getting the necessary attention for, and creating awareness of GBV and its effects on society. multichoice.com
It will take all of our efforts to end GBV.
This article first appeared in the August 2021 print edition of S Mag.