South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, according to Sisters with Blisters, and in a bid to highlight this social tragedy, thousands of feet are expected to pound the pavement in a 5km protest walk in Fourways on Saturday.
This is in the 11th annual 1st for Women Sisters with Blisters protest walk with Jacaranda FM to raise awareness of women and child abuse, which comes as the world marks 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign from November 25 to December 10.
Casey Rousseau, spokesperson for 1st for Women Insurance and the 1st for Women Foundation, believes that more can and must be done to highlight the injustice. “Too many survivors continue to suffer in silence, and it’s our joint responsibility to do whatever possible to change this,” said Rousseau.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr Winnie Martins of the Centre for Community Justice and Development (CCJD), one of the two beneficiaries of this year’s walk which provides access to justice and social services to communities through its 16 Victim Support offices.
Martins said: “In this way, rural communities are provided with assistance and empowered to know that their situations can be remedied.”
Martins explained one of the biggest challenges of the incidence of domestic violence was that so much of it remained hidden. “There are many reasons for this silence, including shame, stigma, repercussions of reporting or going public prevents many victims from speaking up and accessing justice. The only way to combat this silence is to bring it out in to the open and for growing discussions to begin to take place in the wider society,” said Martins.
The CCJD believes that attracting people to participate in the Sisters with Blisters walk increases awareness of the “growing social problem”. “By getting the attention of more and more people, there will be greater mobilisation against the rising tide of violence against women and children,” said Martins.
The view that the walk reached real people with real problems and allowed them to be heard is shared by the nonprofit organisation, Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) – which is the second beneficiary of the walk. The organisation’s executive director, Kevin Barbeau, emphasised the message that children must be seen, heard and believed.
“Child abuse in South Africa is definitely a major problem, just look at our country’s conviction rates of offenders, they are sitting at only 7%. Our courts need to start putting more effort in making the process more child-friendly, and harsher sentences are needed,” said Barbeau.
The organisation has a courtroom preparation programme to educate children on how to testify against perpetrators.
“We are only one organisation assisting victims of child abuse, and just at our clinics alone we assisted over 1 680 new cases in 2015,” said Barbeau.
Both organisations feel it is a privilege to be beneficiaries of the walk, and their members will be striding out to raise awareness. Members of the WMACA can be spotted wear red, black, feather boas, Mickey Mouse ears and funky glasses. Members of CCJD will hand out leaflets informing about the scourge of violence against women and children.
– Caxton News Service