365 days against gender based violence

As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children ended on Wednesday, government and its partners today kicked off a year-long initiative aimed at raising awareness against the abuse of women and children.

Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu, together with Crime Line South Africa, launched the “365 Days of Activism” in Johannesburg.

The campaign will bring together government, the private sector, civil society and community members in a year-long programme to eradicate violence against women and children.

There have been calls for the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which runs from November 25 to December 10, to be a year-long initiative and President Jacob Zuma said during the launch of the current campaign that it should be extended.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Minister Shabangu said the 365 Days campaign will take forward the awareness and vision of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which is observed internationally.

She said activism needs to continue in South African until women and children are no longer threatened.

“We are here to take forward the ‘Count me in’ initiative and to appeal to society not to look away. We need to rid our communities, neighbourhoods and backyards of abuse and violence. Activism can never be over until women feel safe in South Africa and children are free to play.”

She said abuse and violence against women and children is not the problem of victims alone – it’s everyone’s problem.

“We need to stop pointing fingers and roll up our sleeves and get involved. We call on the public to join hands with us and break the silence. Use the available platforms to connect, learn and share. Help is out there and we need to strengthen the channels through which we communicate and activate resources.”

Head of Crime Line Yusuf Abramjee said the16 Days campaign was an eye opener for all South Africans as it educated, informed and reflected on the scourge.

“As much as we say 16 Days of Activism is good, it is not good enough. Hence we have partnered with government to launch 365 Days of Activism. We will take upon the call by President Jacob Zuma and government and do what is right for South Africa in a united way because together we can create a better South Africa.”

Spreading the message daily

The 365 Days of Activism campaign will, among other things, use the social media primary hashtag #365Days and #CountMeIn with a message every day on Twitter and Facebook for 365 days, starting from today.

A digital clock has also been developed to keep count of the 365 days, which will be made available to organisations to download and support the call. The clock can be downloaded from www.crimeline.co.za.

Abramjee said the campaign will also start national and provincial dialogues in communities to help influence policies and laws aimed at ending violence against women and children.

This is because the campaign partners believe that current strategies mean nothing if they cannot give meaningful expression to the victims.

“We will be going to both urban and rural communities to have community dialogues as we want to listen to the people and the challenges that they face in the fight against this scourge,” said Abramjee.

The campaign will also see the cleaning of hot spots, including the development of play parks and community food gardens.

This will be in addition to the themed monthly activities which will be aligned to the national calendar days such as Back to School in January, Human Rights Month in March and Heritage Month in September.

Several stakeholders used today’s event to deliver their messages of support before signing the pledge.

Getting SADC involved

The Lesotho Minister for Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Thesele Maseribane, who graced the event, said Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries need to employ aggressive strategies and assistance to break the scourge.

He called on the campaign to be rolled out in all SADC countries.

“In order to implement the 365 Days campaign, I pledge ‘Count Me In’. As Lesotho, ‘Count us In’. We will do everything in our power to address gender based violence. We believe that gender based violence is an international problem,” Maseribane said.

The South African Police Service, Community Policing Forum, Commission for Gender Equality, Lead SA and several men’s and community organisations also pledged to actively participate in the national campaign while doing everything in their power to uphold human rights and the dignity clauses in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

They also pledged to uphold the rights of everyone in society, especially women and children, and to ensure that the family becomes the centre of moral values.

Minister Shabangu said her ministry’s doors are open for other organisations to partner and join in the campaign.