Sonke commends #TheTotalShutdown activists, NGOs and civil society movements for work to end GBV

The GBV Summit held on 1 and 2 November 2018 was the result of determined organising by #TheTotalShutdown activists who organised across the country to demand attention to the unacceptably high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. On the 1st of August this year, women and gender non-conforming people marched in cities across the country, including to the Union Building where they delivered 24 demands to President Ramaphosa. One of these was for a national summit on GBV.

Sonke commends #TheTotalShutdown activists for their successes in getting Government to convene the GBV Summit and to make important commitments to ending GBV and femicide in South Africa. We also congratulate all NGOs and civil society coalitions and movements who for years have advocated tirelessly for a commitment from government to urgently address the high levels of GBV in our country.

The immediate sense from Sonke and other civil society organisations who attended the Summit is that our collective advocacy has paid off.

Kayan Leung, Legal Advocacy and Litigation Manager for Sonke Gender Justice says: “We are pleased and cautiously optimistic that much of the language and advocacy asks that Sonke and civil society partners have been advocating for over numerous years are included in the Declaration issued by the Presidency. Including especially our longstanding calls for a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (NSPGBV), and for campaigns to address the patriarchal norms held by far too many men.”

A key success of the Summit has been the recognition that among the most serious state failures to date have been the lack of a costed and fully funded national strategic plan on GBV (and the lack of funds for GBV in general), the absence of a coordinating body and an insufficient focus on prevention. These have been compounded by the absence of an overarching framework to hold government, civil society, the private sector and individuals accountable.

Some of the biggest victories of the Summit have been:

  1. A resolution to establish an overarching, multi-sectoral GBV coordinating structure to be chaired by the President which will be tasked with overseeing the development of a NSPGBV.
  2. A commitment to develop within the next six months a national strategic plan on GBV laid out in a five year action plan, which is to be fully costed, implemented, accountable, legislated, and regularly evaluated.
  3. A commitment to ensuring full and adequate services for survivors of violence, including full funding for Thuthuzela Care Centres, which provide essential services for rape survivors such as counselling, HIV tests and treatment but have been under threat of closing due to lack of funds, and the provision of psychosocial support for survivors.
  4. A commitment to GBV prevention in the form of a targeted social behaviour change programme to address patriarchal norms and structural forms of violence.
  5. A commitment to engage all forms of media to ensure that GBV is ethically and accurately covered in the media.
  6. A commitment to engage and hold accountable religious leaders and faith communities.
  7. A commitment to establishing a Code of Conduct for Government, the private sector, religious and traditional leaders.
  8. A commitment that Treasury will dedicate a certain percentage of the country’s income to GBV prevention and response.

Leung continues: “While we must celebrate these victories, it is equally important as a civil society collective to take the work forward to ensure that commitments become tangible for everyone. It is important for the content of the Declaration to be shared with all communities, including in rural areas. Ongoing work on prevention must continue and planning must begin on the GBV coordinating structure to ensure a fully-costed NSPGBV is finalised and implemented timeously. The structure needs to represent vulnerable groups to ensure their lived experiences translate into practical policies and programmes.”

Now it is our collective task as civil society to hold government to its commitments and to sustain our activism for an end to GBV in South Africa.