Tag Archives: South Africa

Day 6 of 16 Days of Activism: South Africa

#Day6 of #16Days explores the help available in South Africa, the callously misnamed “rape capital” of the world. Certainly South Africa has an abhorrent track record of sexual assault, especially so-called “corrective rape,” (whereby some misogynist tries to rape lesbians into heterosexuality,) but most countries have embarrassing rates of sexual assault. Hell, any sexual assault is embarrassing.

With a history like theirs though South Africans have taken to the streets and created an astounding number of organizations aimed at bettering society for everyone. The Gender-Based Violence Prevention Network has member organizations in numerous cities throughout the country. The Advice Desk for Abused Women may be reached at 27 31 204 4922. The National Network on Violence Against Women may be reached at 27 012 312 7541. The Women’s National Coalition of South Africa may be reached at 27 11 331 5958 / 331 5958 and beijing@wn.apc.org.

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Lifelines has a Gender Based Violence Helpline- toll free line 24hrs/7days per week for more information and counselling: 0800-150-150; an AIDS Helpline: 0800-012-322; and a National Counseling Helpline: 0861-322-322. Women’s Net is another organization that has information about violence against women, as well as many other topics from gender budgeting to governance to HIV/AIDS.

There are some very specialized programs in South Africa.

Agenda Feminist Media is “committed to giving women a forum, a voice and skills to articulate their needs and interests towards transforming unequal gender relations. We aim to question and challenge current understandings and practices of gender relations.”

African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town “is a feminist research unit, committed to political work on the African continent. We focus on writing, publications, research processes and partnerships, network-building and participative learning.”

The Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has a gender-based violence program which “seeks to understand the root causes of gender-based violence in all its forms in society and to develop strategies of violence prevention for use by civil society and government.”

Childline–08000-55-555–is “an effective non-profit organization that works collectively to protect children from all forms of violence and to create a culture of children’s rights in South Africa.”

Paralegal Advice for Family Law and Violence Against Women. They have information on everything from abortion to marriage, divorce, and custody to death.

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Rape Crisis is an organization dedicated to ending the shame surrounding sexual assault. “Rape Crisis has a vision of a South African criminal justice system that supports and empowers rape survivors in all of its interventions. Until such time as this vision becomes a reality we provide that support and empowerment. We believe that the rape survivor is the key to a successful conviction and that her empowerment is based on safety, respect, support and the ability to make informed choices as she embarks on this difficult and challenging journey.”

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The Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development provides counseling, training and pubic awareness and advocacy. The Institute “provides counselling through three mediums face-to-face being the most prominent, but telephonic and e-mail counselling services are also used. We thus reach a wider spectrum of people.We are able to provide these services to women and their children for free.”

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People Opposing Women Abuse is a “feminist, women’s rights organisation that provides both services, and engages in advocacy in order to ensure the realisation of women’s rights and thereby improve women’s quality of life.” They use a multi-faceted approach to reach their goals.

1. SECTOR CAPACITY BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING

As an organisation that has been in existence for 29 years, we recognise the need to increase the knowledge and capacity of women’s groups in rural and peri-urban areas where traditionally, access to services such as the Criminal Justice System and clinics are a major challenge.
Due to requests for POWA to open offices in their communities by women’s informal groups, we resolved to empower women within their own communities through the concept of ownership. As an organisation, we therefore provide training, education and mentorship for women’s groups to understand the women’s rights discourse as well as formalise and develop services that respond directly to their particular needs in regards to violence against women.
We currently provide this service to 6 women’s groups in 5 provinces (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Northwest and Gauteng)

2. LAW REFORM

A critical part of engaging in improving the rights of women is influencing national, regional and international policy. As an organisation, we have therefore developed a department that actively writes and makes submissions to parliament on issues that relate directly to our core issues. In addition, we provide expert support to government institutions regarding creating gender sensitive spaces for all women.
From the grassroots perspective, we actively engage in rights education to women’s groups and organisations thus mobilising women’s voices to create the appropriate attention to women’s issues and cause the desired effect of reforms for better laws for the protection of women.

3. RIGHT’S EDUCATION

Part of the responsibilities of all branch offices is to engage with their surrounding communities in rights education. This process is done through community meetings , community conversations and formal workshops on understanding Human rights with specific focus on women’s right and access to justice.

4. REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC ADVOCACY

POWA recognises that South Africa has a comprehensive constitution, a good legal framework and numerous agreements and policies that are set out to protect women’s rights. These agreements are not only national, but regional (SADC), continental and international.
Part of the failings regarding the protection and access of women’s rights is the limited knowledge of the document framework, capacity and skills to implement and domesticate the substance of the agreements set out by the state.
POWA conducts preparatory workshops and information sessions to enable organisations to learn and choose to engage in the regional strategy. We also work towards creating report back or feedback sessions on activities of such meetings and thirdly, we work towards creating round table discussions for strategies of calling for state accountability on emerging issues.

5. SHELTERING AND COUNSELLING

As an organization, we provide individual face-to-face counselling, group counselling and telephonic counselling to women whom have experienced violence. In addition, we provide child play therapy for children who reside in our shelters of safety with their mothers.
Women can access our counselling through our branch offices. We currently have 6 satellite offices and 2 confidential shelters. Our offices are strategically located in areas for women from economically disadvantaged communities and women from the Johannesburg inner city for easy to access services.
As we provide free services to all women in South Africa, we ensure that access is not an additional challenge to the already overwhelming challenges for women to access their rights. This approach assists with the reduction of women’s vulnerability due to economic/financial dependencies that play a huge role in violence against women. Our activities address issues of safety and security that are fundamental to rights for all in South Africa.

With all of these fantastic organizations working so hard in South Africa, hopefully a violence-free future is awaiting all South Africans regardless of sex, gender, race, age, dis/ability, sexual orientation, or religion.

 


Day 9- Women’s Activism in Africa

A composed satellite photograph of Africa.

Image via Wikipedia

North Africa has been in the news recently for its people’s uprisings. Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are all currently in very precarious situations but the people of these nations, men and women, have shown that they want democracy and are willing to give their lives to earn it.

Sub-Saharan Africa is largely ignored by America unless the political events that occur will affect the US, such a high-profile oil spill in Nigeria which could raise gas prices in the States. The tragedies and travesties of the rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the upheaval in Sudan and its Darfur region, and the poverty and desperation in Somalia go largely unnoticed by American news outlets and the American people.

Today I’d like to give a sample of what women (and feminist men) are doing across the African continent to advance social justice and true equality.

Liberia: The women of Liberia bravely stood up against dictator and war criminal Charles Taylor and helped bring about an end to their country’s brutal civil war in 2003. Their story was told in the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Subsequently Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head of state in Africa. An all women UN peacekeeping unit from India still provides inspiration for Liberian women and shows them that women can do or be anything they set their minds to. Today the women of Liberia are still working for peace in their region and in the world. These women are raising their voices for the women of neighboring Ivory Coast.

Cotê d’Ivoire: In honor of International Women’s Day, and to protest the killing of women protesting Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to recognize the November 2010 elections, thousands of Ivorians marched yesterday in an event that left three men and one woman dead.

Nigeria: Last year at this time women in Nigeria were protesting a religious massacre. Last week (2 March 2011) Nigerian women found themselves protesting the presence of cattle herders on of their farm land. In February a small group of women protested the imposing of a female candidate into a federal position for which they elected a man. These women recognize that simply because a candidate is a woman does not necessarily mean she will represent women or fight for women’s rights.

Sudan: Women in Sudan, especially in the Darfur region, understand what it means to be completely ignored and have their rights denied. In the recent referendum however, women turned out in large numbers to show their support for the cessation of Southern Sudan. OftenSudanese women’s stories go untold, but small groups of women are slowly finding their voices and demanding justice. For the second time in two weeks a group of women staged protests against the government’s detention of protesters.

Ethiopia: One of my favorite feminists, native Ethiopian Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, is helping to bring gender equality to her motherland through her blog Ethiopian Feminist.

Kenya: Wangari Maathai is perhaps one of the most well-known women in the world. The 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the Greenbelt Movement, Maathai continues to improve the world around her both through her environmental activism and her women’s rights advocacy.

Uganda: One of Uganda’s favorite journalists, Rosebell Kagumire, covers stories and brings attention to everything from vote rigging to violence against women, both in Uganda and around Africa, in her blog.

Somalia: Women in Somalia suffer under some of the worst poverty in the world. Often left without a means to support themselves, many women-heads-of-household work all day and resort to begging to feed their families, often going hungry themselves. Despite this, Somali women make the time to protest the lack of women in parliament and push for higher quotas.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Because of the efforts of the V-Day campaign the atrocities committed in the DRC have been given at least a little public attention in the US. The widespread use of rape in the DRC as a weapon of war has drawn the sharp criticism of the UN and organizations around the world, like Amnesty International. The women of the DRC have joined forces with these international organizations and demanded safety and dignity.

Mozambique: While Mozambique is making significant progress in gender issues, one of the most dire problems women there are fighting against today is climate change. Because of the feminization of poverty and the differential affects of climate change, rising sea levels and land degradation on women, the people of Mozambique have begun to pay attention to solutions that specifically address women’s relationship to the environment.

Namibia: Forced sterilization of women is not a new concept, but HIV+ women in Namibia who were sterilized without their knowledge or consent have demanded justice. Staging sit-ins with the slogan my body, my womb, my rights thousands of women have shown their support and raised their voices in solidarity with their HIV+ sisters.

South Africa: The shameful “rape capital of the world” (a title South Africa dubiously shares with the DRC) has come a long way since apartheid, but the country’s lesbians are constantly at great risk. So called “corrective rape” of lesbians in South Africa has reached epidemic proportions with police refusing to take complaints seriously, but women around the world have demanded an end to this inhumane practice.

To learn more about women’s roles and rights in Africa, visit Solidarity for African Women’s Rights, Human Rights Watch, All Africa, Women of Africa and the newly formed UN Women.


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