WATCH | This lawyer is joining forces with artists to achieve justice for South African women
Lee-Anne Germanos might not be a painter, but she’s found a way to save lives with art.
The attorney and legal researcher combines law and creativity to combat gender-based violence in South Africa.
In just three months in 2021, over 9 000 rape cases were recorded in the country.
Together with freelance illustrator Leanne Berger, Germanos co-founded The Embrace Project, an art initiative working to dismantle rape culture.
“I think people feel overwhelmed by a dark and heavy subject and often want to steer away from it,” Germanos says.
“We believe art to be a fantastic tool to bring some beauty and encourage discussion.”
With toxic masculinity, a lack of education, and innumerable other factors contributing to violence against women, her approach is as diverse as the problems which cause this societal ill.
“Art has the power to deliver a message with impact and heart,” she says.
Collaborating with local creatives who donate their work to be sold on their platform, the proceeds are directed toward organisations such as Passop, Fight Back SA, and Adapt to bolster the fight against gender-based violence.
With a Masters in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford,
Germanos also assists police and prosecutors by making legal recommendations on sexual offence reports, while also improving school curriculums and police training.
“South Africa actually has some of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world,” she says.
“The problem is the implementation.” Considering every area in which rape culture thrives, Germanos submitted a blueprint for the eradication of gender-based violence to Parliament in 2020.
Taking to Instagram and Facebook, Germanos and her team of illustrators, graphic designers, and researchers also lead social media movements to bring about change.
The Real Man Campaign propels men to rethink what it means to be a ‘real man’ by challenging the misogyny and patriarchy ingrained in society.
The collective also boycotted Women’s Day in 2021 by marching with their artwork to the President’s office, and handed over a letter of complaint and a petition of over 17 000 signatures agreeing that there was no cause for celebration.
It served to hold the President accountable for combating the issue beyond the new bills, plans, and policies that are promised following protests over gender-based violence.
By confronting patriarchy and sexism in society, Germanos and her fellow activists are getting to the root of the problem and edging closer to achieving peace for women.
“Always take in the little victories to remember how far we’ve come,” she says. “You’ll see that the little things really did make all the difference.”
Footage and images by The Embrace Project, Chanelle Volshenck, Tiffany Onderstall, Leandrie De Vos, Chloë van Wyk, Leanne Van, and 3 Brown Girls were used in the creation of this film.