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16 Days of Activism: Fighting Against Gender-based Violence

The 16 Days of Activism campaign celebrates it's 30th anniversary this year. The campaign, created by UN Women, starts on the 25th of November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and ends on the 10th of December (International Human Rights Day) each year.

The aim of the campaign is to call for the prevention and eradication of violence against women and girls. Each year, organizations and individuals around the globe share insights and information on the topic, hoping to raise awareness and educate others on the impact of GBV on society.

Isn't it crazy to think that we, as a society, need a campaign that condemns violence against women and promotes their protection? Shouldn't this just be common sense? Unfortunately, almost a third of women globally have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, often from an intimate partner. In South Africa, 10 006 people were raped between April and June 2021. A startling number that is likely higher, considering how many cases go unreported.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with heavy lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, we saw a spike in gender-based violence cases. This was due to a number of reasons: some women were forced to stay home with an abusive partner, while others faced sudden unemployment and experienced the violent reactions of their partners.

We have all heard these statistics over and over, growing tired of the government's empty promises to do their best in the fight to eliminate gender-based violence. So what can we, as individuals, actually do to take a stand against it?

Don't be afraid to seek professional help

Whether you or someone you know has been a victim of GBV, it can help to open up to a family member or friend you can trust. There are a number of helplines you can call or SMS that can assist you, both in terms of therapy and what steps to take next.

If someone opens up to you about their experience, withhold all judgement. Listen and show empathy, and never force them to do anything they do not feel comfortable doing at that time, such as reporting their abuse to the police. Never shame the victim for their experience, and hold space for them to share their thoughts and feelings, or even report the crime, when they are ready.

People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa) provides counselling, temporary shelter, and legal help to women who have experienced violence. Call them on 011-642-4345 or email info@powa.co.za

TEARS Foundation provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Confidential services are provided at no charge. Dial *134*7355# or call 010 590 5920

Hold yourself and others accountable

The words we speak have consequences, and they can be either good or bad. Jokes about rape or violence against women are NEVER okay, and should never be tolerated. Speak out against anyone who makes insensitive remarks about the topic, and educate those around you about the impacts of our language-use, specifically in the context of GBV.

There is no such thing as a harmless comment when it comes to speaking about violence against women and girls. Objectification of women and girls feeds into what is termed rape culture, an environment in which rape or abuse is normalized and/or excused.

Activate the activist in you!

There are simple steps that we, as individuals, can take that affect the broader society and environment we live in. Share valuable and helpful information with your friends via social media, or join virtual protests. If we can inform and change the mindset of just one individual, we are already one small step closer to the goal of eliminating GBV.

We acknowledge that not all are always able to participate in certain awareness activities, and many women may feel triggered because of past experience. Navigating abuse and other forms of GBV can be complex for the victim, which is why it is important to stand together, uplift one another, and help in whatever small ways we can.

Sign the petition to get anti-GBV education into South African schools.


The president has also made promises to take action, and set up the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Private Sector Response Fund, which has received over R141 million in pledges.

We can hold the government accountable by not being silent. 16 days will never be enough in the fight against GBV; we need to use our voices and confront the grim situation our society is facing. Together, boldly, 365 days of the year, until we see true change.

Engage with the community

Follow these accounts on Instagram for more information and tips on dealing with GBV: