15 January 2024

Daily effort needed to keep South Africa’s women and children safe

Submitted by: Kgotso Mathabatha
Daily effort needed to keep South Africa’s women and children safe


By Nontobeko Gcabashe

Urgent and continuous action is needed – beyond 16 Days of Activism – to combat violence against women and children.

This past year, South Africa observed 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children from November 25 until the December 10, while the world commemorated International Human Rights Day. For South Africa, this campaign is an incredibly important one.

In the middle of November 2023, General Bheki Cele, South Africa’s Minister of Police, released the crime statistics for the second quarter of the 2023/24 period and the numbers paint a bleak picture of the lived experiences of women and children across the country.

Within a period of just three months, from July to September, over 10 000 cases of rape were officially reported. And these figures only scratch the surface of the real situation as so many incidents go unreported. The numbers also represent lives lost, families broken and a societal issue that needs immediate and continuous attention. As such, while campaigns like 16 Days of Activism are critical to raise awareness and spark action, there is an even greater need for more persistent, year-round efforts.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign is undoubtedly pivotal, but it is the ongoing, daily work of grassroots organisations, community leaders and individuals that will make a real difference. Interventions like this serve as a space where victims can get crucial support and can be educated about how to get out of their situation. Furthermore, these initiatives make it possible to reach the many survivors who remain hidden because of fear of their perpetrators.

As our country prepares for the upcoming 2024 general elections, there will likely be a sudden increase of attention around gender-based violence (GBV). While opportunistic and illustrative of a lack of genuine commitment, we cannot let these conversations hinder our efforts to champion a consistent fight against GBV.

During the Second Presidential Summit on GBVF in November 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that government is far from reaching its desired goal of effectively combating GBVF. While this definitely represents a step in the right direction – as it highlights the extent of this issue – real action is needed throughout the year, not only to during the 16 Days of Activism campaign. To get this right, greater support and more funding for programmes that support GBV responses are necessary.  

Comprehensive education programmes in schools that challenge and change harmful gender norms are needed. Additionally, increased funding for shelters and counselling services, well as stronger legal frameworks to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable are essential. It is also vital to form strong partnerships with different communities to provide resources and amplify awareness efforts.

While we recognise the efforts directed towards organising campaigns like 16 Days of Activism, it becomes ‘just another event’ if we only accelerate our efforts during this time. We hear and see high-profile cases of GBV daily. We need to sharpen our focus and ramp up our efforts to ensure this scourge receives the attention it requires so that we can make a tangible, positive impact. The culture of overreliance on key events will not help us. GBV is a daily tragedy and our response has to be equally persistent. 

Nontobeko Gcabashe is the Manager of the Kagisano programme lead implemented by Afesis.

[1] South African Government. 2022.  https://www.gov.za/speeches/president-cyril-ramaphosa-second-presidential-summit-gender-based-violence-and-femicide-1 

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