Gender based violence is one of the most devastating social challenges facing our young democracy. Every day we hear about abuse against women and children, or read about violence, including murder and rape.
The scourge of violence against women and children resembles an epidemic that is spreading through society, sparing no social group or class. It shows no sign of abating. The data released by StatsSA in June shows that despite our joint initiatives to combat the scourge, it is getting worse. What must be stated here is that gender-based violence is not caused by a virus, it is caused by people.
Unlike a virus that is often transmitted through coughing or physical, this epidemic is spread through attitudes and behaviour.
I don’t believe that a man is born with the premise that he has dominion over women.
Instead, this view is handed down from generation to generation and eventually is amplified through social customs, culture and popular media.
It is implied in the social and economic structure of society where men occupy most positions of authority and responsibility and even earn more and receive greater social recognition than women.
This arrangement, which we know as patriarchy, is not natural. It is made by people and as such it can be taken apart by us all working together as a society.
Ending the scourge of abuse against women and children starts with you and me. Let us take responsibility.
If we are to end violence against women and children, we need to confront patriarchy in all its forms and manifestations and for men to play a key role by, among others, organising themselves in order to turn against gender-based violence.
An example of sustained action by men is the recent #100MenMarch that took place first in Tshwane, and then around the country.
In the true spirit of “Thuma Mina” or Send Me, government organised a demonstration in partnership with various social partners. Thousands of men around the country marched in a joint initiative to stop the violence.
The march drew sectors of society, such as government, business, labour, faith-based organisations, non-profit and media organisations in an effort to stop violence against women and children.
The men who took part in the march decided to become agents of change. I hope their actions have inspired others, especially perpetrators to end the violence.
Those violently assaulting women and children need to realise that their actions have a lasting effect on their victims, and that their actions will determine the kind of society our children live in tomorrow.
We must help women reclaim agency over their lives and bodies. The time has come for all of us to speak with one voice and take a stand. Just as we did during the apartheid struggle we must mobilise all sectors of society against this scourge.
As men there is nothing that compels us to hurt those who are vulnerable.
Our country will never be truly free until all our women are fully emancipated from the degradation of poverty, the indignity of sexism and patriarchy, and the endemic violence daily experienced by them and our children.
Violence perpetrated against women is an offence against the founding values of our Constitution. It goes against all that we seek to build as a nation.
I call on every South African to play their part in ending gender-based violence by reporting incidents of abuse in your community to the nearest police station.
By doing this you are sending out a strong message of non-tolerance allowing our criminal justice system to do its job to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence.
The Department of Social Development also has a Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) – a 24-hour call centre that provides support and counselling to victims of gender based violence. Their number is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV). Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone.
I encourage survivors of gender-based violence to use the services offered by this centre.
A nation that undermines the aspirations of women and oppresses them can have no peace, no social cohesion, and no development.
The neglect and social exclusion of women in our democratic breakthrough would mean a betrayal of the liberation struggle and of freedom stalwarts like Charlotte Maxeke, Ruth First, Dorothy Nyembe, Amina Cachalia, Winnie Mandela and many more.
Our liberation struggle was not just about ending national oppression.
It was also about ending the triple oppression of women. As mothers, sisters, and daughters, black women were oppressed on the basis of race, class, and gender.
The liberation of women demands that those who are a source of life – women - are also freed from sexist and oppressive language.
This is what the new revolution warrants. This is what radical economic emancipation demands.
Women are the soul and fire of our nation.
We say Malibongwe because our women are the bricks building the dreams of a resilient nation.
Let me remind every South African to always have this slogan in their hearts and in their mind that “Change Begins With Me and I Can Motivate Others to end Violence”.
Let us work together to build a safe and better society.