Calls for the end of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide in South Africa have been loud and persistent over the years, resulting in protests, petitions, and trending hashtags to bring awareness to the issue.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has kept citizens at home, and large gatherings for protests are high-risk for contracting the virus, raising awareness has had to come in different forms.
While most protests continue on social media, a nonprofit organisation has decided to take their protest against gender-based violence right to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ear.
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) is encouraging all South African citizens to record voice notes for the president throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, as part of its #EndDomesticSilence campaign.
These recorded voice notes will be collected by POWA to form an audio petition that will be personally delivered to President Ramaphosa.
POWA has teamed up with Unilever-owned brand, Joko Tea, on this campaign in order to amplify the movement and urge the government to prioritise legislation that protects GBV survivors and holds perpetrators accountable.
The campaign is calling on the president to fast-track three new bills that were introduced into parliament in September this year, so that gender-based violence can be tackled with more than just words.
These bills were introduced by Ramaphosa in an effort to tackle three key issues that relate to GBV: the process of applying for a protection order; state police not taking harassment claims seriously; and the lack of accountability and adequate punitive measures for offenders. You can read up on and get to know the new bills here.
“Research shows us that it takes parliament an average of 153 days to pass a bill, with a lengthy 96 days from adoption to assent by the president,” Executive Director of POWA Mary Makgaba said in a statement. “But time is not on our side. If ever there was legislation that should be fast-tracked, this is it.”
The figures surrounding COVID-19 and gender-based violence have heightened the need for the three bills to be approved.
Speaking on the matter in a national address in June this year, President Ramaphosa said that no fewer than 21 women and children had been murdered by men at the beginning of that month. The president went on to call GBV the “second pandemic” that the country is facing in a later national address.
Times Live reported that after the first three weeks of the national lockdown, the government’s GBV and femicide command centre’s 24-hour emergency line received 120,000 calls for help — double the usual number.
In a statement, Marketing Manager for Joko Tea Sue Marshall explained how the collection of voice notes will not only pressure the president and parliament to implement the new legislation, but also help give a voice to those who feel voiceless.
“Very few women are empowered to speak about their experiences and so remain silent, largely out of shame or fear. We hope that giving everyone a chance to have their say to #EndDomesticSilence will act as a catalyst for change,” she said.
In 2019, Unilever announced that R1 from every box of Joko 100 tea bags sold would be donated to POWA, amounting to an estimated R5 million per year. This money is used to provide advocacy for women’s rights, shelter, and counselling and legal services.
If you want to add your voice to the #EndDomesticSilence petition, you can do so here.
South African girls and women deserve to live without fear of gender-based violence. For 16 Days of Activism, join Global Citizen in the call for an end to this crisis, by taking action here to help ensure the safety of women and children.
If you or someone you know has experienced gender-based or sexual violence, you can find resources for support here or you can call the SA National GBV helpline on 0800 150 150.