Tackling the scourge of gender-based violence from the ground up
According to the United Nations, gender-based violence (GBV) is the most prevalent form of human rights abuse in the world today. Sadly, many South Africans are all too familiar with this. International aid has such an important role to play in combatting the scourge.
GBV – and the efforts being made to address it – is the subject of one of a series of videos currently airing on the Embassy of Japan in South Africa’s YouTube Channel. The series, called Sharing the Sun, explores the long-standing partnership between Japan and South Africa and gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how Japan is supporting organisations and projects in critical areas of need in South Africa.
One of these organisations is UN Women, an international agency established in 2010 as a global champion for women and girls. With the assistance of donors like the government of Japan, which actively grapples with various issues women face, the agency works in partnership with civil society organisations and grassroots groups to make a real and meaningful difference in the struggle against GBV and subsequent HIV vulnerability.
Series host, Lalla Hirayama examines some of the projects aimed at addressing this monumental issue from the ground up, including the HeForShe community-based initiative, which is led by UN Women partner organisation, The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In 2020, the Japanese government provided funding for UN Women’s Covid-19 mitigation efforts and a portion of that funding was used to enable this initiative to help young women cope with the Covid-19 lockdown and related gender-based violence.
On a broader basis, between 2018 and 2020, HeForShe facilitators engaged over 150 000 men and women in a series of dialogues across seven districts in five provinces. These highly interactive sessions focused on transforming harmful social-cultural norms and, specifically, on mindset and behavioural transformation.
The positive outcomes from this intervention encouraged young women in these communities to organise a movement to address the social context of their own vulnerabilities. This, in turn, leads to the formation of the Young Women For Life Movement (YWfLM) which, after two years, has over 2 000 members. With the help of the Justice and Peace Commission of The South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the movement has facilitated an increased share of voice and greater agency, not only for survivors of gender-based violence but for young women living in vulnerable communities such as informal settlements and rural areas.
Moreover, they have put practical measures into place to improve safety and security in these communities, and to provide better access to justice for those in need. They have, for instance, helped to initiate and are currently supporting 120 cases dealing with sexual and gender-based violence, including femicide. As part of this effort, they have provided support for the families of survivors and, on a broader basis, have been active in helping to alleviate food insecurity, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
These young women are proving that, with targeted financial aid and practical support from local organisations, it is possible to transform communities, give a voice to the voiceless, and restore hope in communities that had lost hope. When toxic masculinity and unequal gender norms are addressed, individuals, families and communities exhibit better social and health-seeking behaviours and support women’s empowerment, resulting in improved socio-economic outcomes.
"Sharing the Sun" airs every Thursday on the YouTube Channel of Japan in SA. This 13-part web series provides a platform to showcase these successful economic partnerships along with many other fascinating aspects of the beautiful friendship between the two nations.
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