Women abuse continues to take a heavy toll on South African society.
Every day, thousands of hardworking mothers, wives and innocent girls suffer silently at the hands of their physically stronger abusers. It should not be this way.
The 20 000 courageous women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 remind us that women do indeed have the power to stand up to injustice and implement change.
They stood up to deeply institutionalised racism and discrimination, and forced the formidable apartheid government to pay attention to their voices.
Although women abuse is not a government-driven injustice like apartheid, the problem has, sadly, become deeply rooted in our society.
With hundreds of anti-abuse campaigns taking place every year – driven by government,
non-governmental organisations and the private sector – there is no doubt that awareness of women abuse is widespread.
But the issue needs to be tackled at ground level. This is where relations in the home need to change.
We still live in a society where many men believe that they have the right to exert power over women.
It stands to reason, then, that men have a crucial role to play in taking a stand against women abuse.
It was therefore heart-warming to see hundreds of men taking to the streets of Pretoria on 10 July, in support of government’s #100MenMarch campaign.
Responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” call to action, these men demonstrated that they are willing to protect and support the victims of violence and abuse.
We are hopeful that, during Women’s Month, this important message will spread to men across the country, and kickstart real changes in the home and community.
As government, we are urging all South Africans to take the following pledge to end this scourge: Change begins with me, and I can motivate others to end violence against women and children.
I pledge to help break the culture of silence that accompanies violence and abuse.
I pledge not to commit violence and to act when I see violence against women and children.
I pledge to teach those in my care the values of human dignity, equality and respect. Meanwhile, women have to be brave enough to report instances of abuse and find safety from abusive relationships.
We have more support systems in place for this than ever before, in the form of shelters, victim-friendly rooms at police stations and 24-hour helplines.
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