The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an admirable campaign. Carving real time out of the year to highlight, examine and interrogate the senseless violence suffered by survivors of gender-based violence can only be lauded. While we acknowledge both the intent and far-reaching awareness raising that comes from the campaign, there is also room to acknowledge the void – which is a lack of action beyond the 16 days. What comes of the 16 Days of Activism every year? Well, let’s interrogate that too.
To be clear, observing 16 Days of Activism is not the problem, it is the abandoning of what the campaign intends to spur that should be criticised. Organisations working in SGBV (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence) go to great pains to create campaigns of their own during this time, because this is the only time that the world pays any attention. This is the only time in the year that we hear from government decision makers, that the press dedicates time to this issue and that the average citizen may turn on the TV and receive the very necessary information that they should be receiving any other day of the year. From the sounds of it, 16 Days does precisely what it was founded to – so you may be wondering, then what is the problem? Well, let’s keep interrogating.
For 16 Days government decision makers who pay no mind to SGBV suddenly have statements to make. The press, who cover instances of sexual and gender-based violence in problematic ways or not at all, suddenly want to know what organisations already working in the sector are doing to observe the campaign. Frankly, these organisations – organisations like Rape Crisis – are the ones providing survivors of SGBV with the support services that they need every day of the year. What is 16 Days to civil society organisations? To organisations that work without praise to make sure that no survivor is left without medical, legal, counselling, shelter or financial support at what is often the most harrowing moment of their lives? Business as usual. We do the work 365 days a year, so it is our daily reality – these are YOUR 16 Days of Activism.
How is Rape Crisis honouring 16 Days?
In three ways: awareness, our services and supporting our sister SGBV organisations.
We will utilise the digital space to raise awareness and change mindsets; we will highlight the free support services that we provide survivors of SGBV 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; and, we will spotlight our powerful sister organisations working in this sector fighting this fight with us.
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) will engage decision makers on key pieces of legislation that affect survivors. There will be a Victim Support Services Bill briefing with members of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on 30 November, to address concerns about the Bill and to present suggestions on how it could be improved. On the 10th of December at 11am, the RSJC will mobilise outside the Khayelitsha court to protest delays in the establishment of a sexual offences court. Keep an eye on our socials if you would like to join the protest.
You may also see our Making Change team paying socially distanced visits to organisations that we work with as a show of support and delivery of educational materials for the survivors that they provide support services to.
For more on the organisations doing the work (365 days a year), and how you can support them, read Activism and Donations.
How can YOU honour organisations like ours during 16 Days?
- Share content that provides helplines and helpful resources
- Advocate for a legal system that protects and supports survivors instead of shielding perpetrators, by supporting organisations doing the critical legislative campaigning
- Volunteer your time and skill-set to an SGBV organisation
- Donate to ensure that these organisations can help even more survivors
By sharing, advocating, volunteering or donating you take real action that can directly impact the lives of SGBV survivors in South Africa. There are already socio-economic barriers that hinder the path to recovery and justice for each survivor. As a nation we need to band together to ensure that survivors can access the free direct services that organisations like Rape Crisis provide.
If Rape Crisis is the organistion that you want to support with your donation, you can do so here: https://rapecrisis.org.za/donate/