By Marli Naidoo
Violence against women and children occurs in South Africa in shocking numbers. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the moment Covid-19 and violence against women and children are the two pandemics which we are fighting. With the lowering of the lockdown from stage 4 to stage 3, this kind of violence and abuse has increased rapidly, and 21 women and children have been murdered in South Africa during the last few weeks.
It is difficult to foresee numbers, as it is not always clear if the crimes were committed against the victims because they are women. However, the fact remains that there is something gravely wrong when the most vulnerable people in communities do not feel safe and protected in going about their daily business.
Stricter punitive measures for transgressors and assistance for the victims are only part of the solution. South Africa must shift the focus to prevention by addressing the origin and structural causes.
Prevention must start early by working with young boys and girls and teaching them about respectful relationships and gender equality. This is a critical stage in their lives when values, norms and ideas around gender equality are formed. To work with young people is one of the best options for quicker, sustained progress in the prevention and eradication of gender-based violence.
Programmes must furthermore exist where men and boys are instructed to change the deeply rooted inequalities and social norms that promote men’s control and power over women. A man should not only treat women well, but also stand up for women and children when other men see them in a negative light, insult them or treat them badly.
Children must be taught from a young age what their rights are, what it means to protect children, and everything that can be labelled as child abuse.
Women must be taught that they have rights and that they are just as important as men. They have to understand and realise their value, and know that it’s not acceptable to be abused. They must also be equipped to protect themselves if necessary, and know how and where to get help.
Making the community aware and mobilising them, which can be accomplished by for example using media and social media, is another important component of an effective prevention strategy. Spread positive messages by organising a peaceful protest, and challenge people on social media to change their outlook and attitude.
Training is prevention and it starts at home. Make sure you teach your children the right lessons and treat your family they way in which you would like everybody in the world to treat each other.
UN Women: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/prevention