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"WHAT HAS CHANGED?"​ The Justice Desk's '16 Voices in 16 Day Campaign'​

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

Uyinene was a student at UCT at the time of her untimely passing in August 2019 at the age of 19. Her passing – through a gruesome and despicable deed – brought to the fore the GBV debate across the country and internationally. The UCT student body and community members at large marched to Parliament to present a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa to urge the government to put an end to GBV.

The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation© was founded in celebration of the life of Uyinene Mrwetyana. Uyinene was known to be inquisitive, forthright and vocal about the various social ills which plague our society – including patriarchal oppression and issues of gender-based violence. It is for this reason that this Foundation’s main aim is to empower young people to stand against violence.

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.

"President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged that this country has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. He further stated that GBVF is the second pandemic that South Africa is grappling with. In 2020, the president commissioned the Interim Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence Femicide (ISCGBVF) to prepare an Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) that would be implemented over six months. He convened the Joint Sitting of Parliament to discuss the state of gender-based violence and unite the country behind a national plan. He charged the ISCGBVF to implement the plan and report back weekly on progress made. The plan was presented to Parliament and approved on the 18th of September 2019. Consequently, the Gender-based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan (GBVF-NSP) was born. Two years later, we have seen little to no progress, and GBV cases are on the rise. South Africa is getting increasingly violent and unsafe for women and children.

Unfortunately, this is the society that the government and men have collectively created for us. Maintaining a system that allows gender-based violence not only to continue but to thrive, is a crime against humanity on its own. It is unfortunate that the majority of the responsibility to change the narrative for women and children in South Africa lies on the very same perpetrators of these crimes. And it is no wonder that women have lost all hope. Because, how can we hope for change from the same people who enjoy their privilege and power more when it is against the backdrop of our pain and suffering.

This is why as UMF, we have made a commitment to fight back, we believe that we all have a collective part to play in this, our victory and freedom is in our unity. The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation was founded in celebration of the life of Uyinene Mrwetyana. Our mandate is to promote her lifelong vision of fighting all forms of injustice against women. Our vision is to see a society that is free of gender-based violence. The mere existence of the foundation is not only a celebration of a life well-lived but is a form of resistance, it is a form of activism and it is a civic movement because we refuse to lose hope.

We have seen all these hashtags arise over the last 10-plus years and now we are asking #WhatHasChanged? How many more hashtags must be created for any kind of respite to enter the lives of the most vulnerable in our population?!

It is imperative that our government takes GBV seriously, action needs to be taken by our decision and policymakers. The end to this war on women and children starts with them.

We urge the government to start here:

1. Harsher sentences must be considered for offenders of crimes against women and children in relation to minimum sentences, bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children.

2. Sexual offences courts: an increase of 11 courts to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.

3. National Register of GBV offenders to be “overhauled and modernized” and parliament must be requested to amend legislation to make the register public.

4. Cold gender-based violence cases that had been closed or not properly investigated should be reviewed.

5. Other systemic challenges including the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in our police stations should be addressed.

As we reflect on 16 days of activism, may we remember to advocate for women 365 days a year, and 24 hours a day. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go still. We are nothing without our community that supports us, a country, and an army of women who vowed and promised to never forget Uyinene."

Masimbulele Buso

Representative of The Uyinene Foundation

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