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"GBV IS ROOTED IN GENDER INEQUALITY" The Justice Desk's '16 Voices in 16 Day Campaign'​

We are proud to introduce our third voice in our “16 Voices in 16 Days” Campaign against gender-based violence!

Melene Rossouw is the CEO of Women Lead Movement. WLM is a South African-based Non-Profit Organisation established in 2017. They promote and advocate for gender equality (especially at a grassroots level) as well as an active and participatory citizenry, which are both pivotal for the achievement of good governance, sustainable development, social justice and transformation.

The Justice Desk believes in the power of the everyday person, especially in their ability to create lasting, impactful and effective change in their communities! Through this campaign, we hope to both raise awareness to #GBV, but also to unite and inspire others in order to take action within their own spaces. Ending GBV is not the fight of some, but of us all!

Let us never forget to recognise the incredible power that we as South Africans have, when we come together, to make a change.

By amplifying these 16 remarkable changemakers, we hope to inspire YOU in contributing YOUR own thoughts and voice, as we unite in solidarity in the important fight against gender-based violence.

"Gender-Based Violence has many drivers - poverty, trauma, substance abuse, a lack of education and economic opportunities, just to name a few - but this social evil is predominantly rooted in gender inequality. The root cause of gender-based violence is the unequal power relations in which men were/are afforded more rights, privileges, resources and power. This has had a devastating impact on women and girls for eons amounting to unfair discrimination, violation of their human rights, marginalisation, objectification, and oppression.

Women Lead Movement focuses on GBV awareness and prevention education. We work with many organisations that assist victims/survivors with the support they need whether it is providing shelter, trauma counselling or supporting victims at court. Our philosophy however is that prevention is better than cure. Desmond Tutu said it best: “There comes a point where we need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.” Some of the reasons people “fall into the river” is a combination of dire socio-economic conditions, trauma and lack of education (not necessarily formal education) but education about GBV - its causes and drivers; gender stereotyping and social conditioning; forms of GBV; its impact on individuals, families and communities, and tools and strategies to deal with it.

There is nothing more powerful than education. We have seen first-hand the changes in attitudes, mindsets and behaviour not only towards GBV but also acknowledging how they contributed, directly or indirectly, in perpetrating or perpetuating GBV in their homes, schools, churches, work and the broader community. GBV is a complex, entrenched and pervasive challenge, and no organisation has all the expertise and skills required to effectively deal with it.

Despite our Constitution, our laws and our policies – the latest being the National Strategic Plan on GBV and Femicide – and the many hundreds of organisations doing good work, we are still failing as a society to address and prevent the violence affecting thousands of our people every day.

What is to be done?

• We need to effectively implement the laws, policies and strategies already developed. These are failing because of a lack of (mainly political) will, resource allocation (financial and other), a lack of coordination and capacity, bureaucratic red tape, and poor monitoring and evaluation tools to determine what is working and what is not; and how best to adapt the strategy to ensure that the response matches the need.

• As a society we need to challenge, disrupt and eradicate the toxic social, cultural and religious norms that perpetuate violence against women or seek to discriminate, marginalise and violate the rights of women in the workplace and in the broader society.

• We must further inculcate different values and belief system in society that promotes and fosters gender equality, tolerance, fairness and justice - and this starts in our homes.

• We need more coordination, co-operation and sharing of best practices between organisations, especially those who share the same vision, mission and objectives. It is not happening on the scale that it should.

• There is no quick fix for GBV. Initiatives to address GBV are often developed and implemented with a short-term timeframe and budget in the hope of seeing results. This approach is unsustainable and a waste of resources. We must keep our eyes on the medium and long term and develop programmes that are comprehensive and sustainable.

• Men should be the champions of actions against gender-based violence because they are predominantly the perpetrators of GBV. There must be more concerted efforts around getting men and boys involved in the fight against GBV.

• In the criminal justice system, we must end the apathy and lack of urgency in dealing with GBV cases. There must be consequences for perpetrators, and the impunity experienced within the justice system must end. There should also be consequences for government officials failing in their duty to protect and uphold the rights of the most vulnerable in society.

• Lastly, to really make a dent we must bend the tree when it’s still small. GBV must be taught in schools (both primary and high schools) so that we contribute significantly towards influencing mindsets and changing toxic behaviour, rooted in cultural, religious and social norms and at a young age.

Yes, it is the long route - but we believe that is the ultimate route to go."

Melene Rossouw

Attorney, gender rights activist and founder of the Women Lead Movement.

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