Dated today, Wednesday 4 December 2019 at 4.15pm
It’s possible to halve the incidence of gender-based violence
More than 200 delegates gather in Johannesburg at multi-stakeholder conference aimed at stopping violence against women and girls
It’s been proved that the incidence of gender-based violence can be reduced by up to half. However, this requires applying well-researched interventions, long-term commitment, and sufficient resources and funding. But it can be done.
It has been done in numerous regions of the world, where it’s shown good results. These regions include Ghana, the DRC, Bangladesh, Pakistan and certain areas of South Africa.
This was the message delivered to more than 200 delegates attending the first day of the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in Southern Africa – from Evidence to Action conference in Johannesburg. Delegates included civil society advocacy and activist groups; South African and Southern African Development Community (SADC) policymakers; social and community workers; academics and researchers; and international delegates from Germany, the United Nations, the Ford Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
Rachel Jewkes, professor and executive scientist for research strategy at the South African Medical Research Council, delivered the keynote address at the opening plenary session of the conference. She told delegates that gender-based violence is more prevalent in poor communities, and it’s here that the lion's share of work must be done to curb it.
“Violence against women and girls is rooted in patriarchal privilege,” Professor Jewkes said. “It also has its roots in the disempowerment of women and girls. There is an intimate link between gender-based violence and low levels of education among both girls and boys.”
Although gender-based violence is a global phenomenon, Professor Jewkes said that it’s particularly prevalent in South and Southern Africa (where up to 70% of females in poor communities become victims). However, work has been done (in research offices and in the field) to stem the tide of gender-based violence. The positive impact of this work is being discussed at the conference so that protocols can be rolled out across the region – especially in poor areas – to make the entire region much safer for women and girls.
Impactful interventions, Professor Jewkes said, include deploying trained advocates on the ground to work with families and communities to address the root causes of violence that occurs in specific situations. This, she said, has shown positive results by opening up lines of communication, by addressing mental health issues, and by giving both potential perpetrators and potential victims an avenue to help when they need it.
However, she added, the research shows that such intervention must be regarded as a medium- to long-term solution. “People and communities need sustained support. This is not an overnight or quick-fix solution – it demands commitment and resourcing.”
Additionally, if gender-based violence is to be curbed, and curbed significantly, work must be done to address its root causes. These are domiciled in the economic and social marginalisation of women and girls and in perpetuating the gender stereotypes that insidiously fuel violence. These stereotypes are perpetuated in the corporate world, across public structures, at schools and in places of worship. In short, it’s an ingrained culture that must be addressed, challenged and ended.
Sustained resistance to stereotyping and to economic marginalisation combined with deploying trained advocates in communities delivers good results, she told delegates. The challenge now is applying this learning across the Southern Africa region, resourcing it and putting mechanisms in place for long-term application of the work.
The conference is organised by the regional programme, Partnerships for Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in Southern Africa (PfP), and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and its local partners, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, the Gender Unit at the SADC Secretariat, the South African Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Development. It’s supported by the European Union and High Commission of Canada. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is the main funder.
German Ambassador to South Africa Martin Schäfer said that while gender-based violence is a universal and global problem, Germany had decided to work in South Africa and partner with Southern Africans because of the South African government’s commitment to fighting and ending gender-based violence.
“The root causes of violence against women and girls are multiple and deep-seated,” he said. “They are also different for every country, with each region having its own particular cultural and economic realities that have a role to play. We must unite to find the root causes of gender-based violence and figure out how to stop it.”
“Partnerships are important. We all have a role to play, from community members right up to the people who occupy the highest seats of government. This is the right moment to join President Cyril Ramaphosa’s initiative to make sure we tackle and stem the scourge together.”
The Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in Southern Africa – from Evidence to Action conference takes place on 4 and 5 December 2019 at the Indaba Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg. For more information, visit https://partnershipsforprevention.org/ and follow #Evidence2Action on social media platforms.
Issued by Flow Communications for and on behalf of Partnerships for Prevention
Chuma Siswana: firstname.lastname@example.org +27 11 (0)440 4841