Thinking about the other 349 days of the year….
Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 35% of women worldwide have experienced some sort of gender-based violence, and almost one third women who have been in a relationship has experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner – also known as domestic violence. Think about this for a minute. That means one in every three women in a relationship is a victim of violence at home. Is it you, your sister, or your best friend?
In fact, did you know that gender-based violence ranks higher as a contributor to death for women than smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure. The effects of gender-based violence are widespread. Not only does it put a woman’s health at risk (the most obvious consequence), it also limits her participation in society, causes great human suffering for both the victim and her children, and even has an effect on a country’s gross domestic product, according to a KPMG report on the economic impact of gender-based violence in South Africa.
As we kick off the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, I find myself consistently thinking about these figures and what can be done in the other 349 days of the year to stop gender based violence.
My take it there is a need to begin to seriously look at gender based violence as a human rights violation, and must be treated as such.
While 16-days of activism against violence will run from 25 November to 10 December, and until the next big thing comes we will not hear much about violence against women and yet one in every three women in a relationship is a victim of violence at home, they live it, wake up to it, and sleep in it 365 days of the year.
Do you not agree that we should be using the 349 days in the year to drive campaigns and projects aimed at stopping gender based violence, and using 16 days of violence to reflect on achievements made in the 349 days of the year.
I challenge you, to think about this, and come up with ways in which individuals can begin to take part in stopping gender based violence.
Your suggestions and solutions matter. Once we have gathered enough feedback from you, we will put together a Toolkit based on your insights and feedback to make every day different for survivors of gender based violence.
Multiple studies reveal that violence is a learned behaviour and our aim is to contribute towards enabling communities to “unlearn” this behaviour, and raise boys and young men who will become better than the men contributing towards the high rate of violence against women.
We want to engage key influencers in society such as religious leaders, celebrities, and cultural custodians like traditional leaders, traditional healers, community elders and matriarchs as stewards of culture to shift discourse and behaviours around domestic violence, and begin to influence a different message to men, to care more and play a role in guarding our girls and keeping women safe. We want the men to come up and raise their hands high to say we will work with you, we will play a part in speaking to our peers, and driving the message in social gatherings, while playing golf, having “drinks with the boys”, we want the men to come out and say, we will become ambassadors to stop violence against women, because without those conversations between men and boys, men and men, and men and religious leaders, cultural custodians and community elders, our efforts may just be futile.
Let’s find creative ways together to stop gender based violence, and begin to make an impact in the other 349 days of the year, your voice can save a life.
Josina Z Machel
- Too costly to ignore – the economic impact of gender-based violence in South Africa, KPMG Human and Social Services, 2014.
Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence