Turning the tide against abuse
It is often said that the true test of any society is in how it treats its most vulnerable members. In South Africa, there are none more vulnerable than our women and children.
Every day we read and hear of the horrific abuse endured by women and children from across the country, of all races, ages, backgrounds and social standings.
And these are just the incidents that make it to the media and are reported on – there are many more that we will never hear about.
Much focus will be placed on women and child abuse this month and next, as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day), gets underway.
The campaign is led by the Department of Women and was adopted in 1998 as a concrete intervention to create a society free of violence.
We are well aware that interventions to curb women and child abuse need to go beyond the duration of this campaign, as the abuse suffered is a reality throughout the year.
It is for this very reason the Department of Women also launched the “365 Days for No Violence Against Women and Children” initiative.
National and provincial dialogues that assist the Department of Women and government to best understand the nature and causes of the scourge of femicide, rape and violence against women and children, in order to inform government's response and course of action form part of the initiative.
The cleaning of crime hotspots, social media campaigns and partnerships with various sectors of society are other elements of the campaign.
Other government departments, including Police and Justice and Constitutional Development, also lead the fight against women and child abuse daily.
While government is doing its bit, our work will never be done until we rid our country of the horrors of abuse. Such an effort goes beyond government.
Let's not forget the responsibility each of us has, outside our work in government – as individuals and human beings – to take a stand against abuse.
The abuse of women and children occurs in homes, families and communities.This means that someone – a neighbour, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, colleague, teacher or priest, the list is endless – has some idea of the abuse a woman or child is being subjected to. Someone sees the bruises and tears or hears the cries.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the pain inflicted on those around us. We need to speak up and help out when the opportunity arises.
Contact the authorities to report the abuse and make the victim aware that they are not alone and that help is available.There are a number of government and non-profit organisations that are willing and ready to assist.
The Department of Social Development, for instance, has a 24-hour toll-free Gender-based Violence Command Centre that provides telephonic counselling to victims of gender-based violence. All a person has to do is call the centre on 0800 428 428 or dial *120*7867# from a cellphone to be contacted by a social worker.
We need to make the women and children of South Africa aware that they are not alone in their situations, there are people who care and want to help – you and I need to be counted among them.
Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.