NGOs may be turning a blind eye to sexual harassment within own organisation

702/CapeTalk host Eusebius McKaiser hosted a roundtable to discuss the functions of civil society movements, especially with the rise of sexual violence against women.

Mckaiser hosted director of South Africa Action Aid, Fatima Shabodien, programs manager for woman rights and gender justice at Oxfam, Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, and activist and social Change Initiative fellow, Phumi Mtetwa.

Are these institutions interrogating these social ills even when they take place within their organisations or they simply turn a blind eye?

Read: How the #MeToo movement is changing approaches to dating and sex

I don't want to underestimate the nature of the crisis. I think it is profound, but it also presents us with a unique opportunity to sit back and reflect on the state of our sector and interrogate the disconnect between the values we hold for ourselves and society, and the reality that exists in our society.

Fatima Shabodien, Country Director South Africa Action aid

If a woman who works for our organisation can be sexually assaulted and be raped inside the organisation, imagine what happens to volunteers we work with out in rural areas where there aren't eyes to watch.

Fatima Shabodien, Country Director South Africa Action Aid

Activist Phumi Mtetwa weighed in on the fact that organisations are sometimes silent when it comes to some of the ills that happen within them.

Read: 'The workplace is not pro-woman' - panelists discuss sexual harassment

At the heart of it is, what principles and values do we hold, especially in the nature of work that we do. I think this is a test about what do we mean about our politics, how do we centre them in real life so that we not only making good speeches that appeal and mobilise people to fight businesses but that we are able to integrate these values and principles in our politics.

Phumi Mtetwa, Activist and social Change Initiative Fellow,

On the contrary, Kwezilomso Mbandazayo argues that the fact that civil societies are silent on certain issues social issues is misleading.

We are not really silent, it depends on who is listening, who wants to listen and who is this person who suddenly picked up that there is talk.

Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, Programs manager for Woman Rights and Gender Justice at Oxfam

Many of us in NGOs have spoken about the fact that we cannot be surprised and we need to plan for violence in an institution. In as much as we set ourselves a standard, we live in a patriarchal, heteronormative, racist society and those things are going to be a norm and fester in an institution if you are not actively working against them in the culture.

Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, Programs manager for woman rights and Gender Justice at Oxfam

To hear the rest of the conversation with civil societies representatives, listen below:


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