South Africa: Minister Susan Shabangu – Joint Sitting of Parliament Debate On the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children

Honourable Speaker

Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP

Honourable Deputy Speaker

Honourable Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP

Honourable Members

Distinguished guests

The theme for the 2016 - 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is "Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward". This is an inclusive message calling to all South Africans, to commit to reject violence against any vulnerable person, women and children in particular, and contributes to social cohesion and nation building, a means to achieve a just and equal society.

However, social cohesion and nation building are not achievable as long as more than half of the population in this country remains poverty stricken, unemployed and subjected to discrimination, inequality and violence.

South Africa is among the countries with the highest rate of violence against women and children despite the unprecedented body of laws and world best practice model institutions to address this scourge.

Several studies have attempted to identify the root causes of violence against women and children in South Africa. These comprise a complex web of factors that conspire to make violence against women and children a norm.

To un-root this scourge will take a fundamental transformation of societal attitudes and mind-sets that have been cemented over generations and are reinforced every day by culture, tradition, religion and the media, to mention but a few. We definitely need the deconstruction and RDP of the mind-sets of members of the communities to insure that women and children are respected and valued in society.

The empowerment of women cannot be achieved without the socio-economic transformation of society to accelerate economic growth and overcome the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, which women bear the brunt of and is the breeding ground for violence against women.

South Africa adopted the 16 Days Campaign in 1998 as an intervention strategy and a period of heightened campaigning on violence against women and children towards creating a society free of violence. However, this year, the approach is different; we are implementing #365 days of Activism in a true sense, making it real, going to communities to talk to them to understand their challenges.

We will be starting the journey of assessing the gains that were brought by democracy while also focusing on the continued social ills, especially violence against women and children and its impact on women's economy.

According to the World Bank, conservative estimates of the economic costs of loss of productivity due to violence against women (VAW) are around 2% of GDP globally. The cost to public health has been established, what has not been investigated is the cost of loss of productivity to women themselves due to violence against them.

In the quest to eradicate violence against women and children, the department will embark on National Dialogues on Violence Against Women and Children that will see it traversing the country, talking to women and men from all spheres of life, starting from Limpopo during the 16 Days Campaign, and rolled-out to other Provinces throughout the year in 2017.

They will be convened per District Municipalities and will also focus on specific communities such as correctional services, universities, the legal profession.

These dialogues will provide a platform to the nation from rural areas to the urban area, professionals to business people, workers, housewives, young people to the old telling their personal stories with regards to the violence they have experienced as victims or survivors at home, work places or institutions created to build the economy of the country and for the economic development of the nation.

We will also be talking to perpetrators to understand what leads them to commit such violation of women and children's rights to safety.

The Dialogues will also provide an opportunity to government to assess and evaluate the services and institutions that it has established for empowering women economically and for reducing the high incidents of violence, against women and children in particular. This will stimulate a shared understanding of the challenges facing women and a commitment to finding new solutions that will facilitate public contribution into policy making decisions and law reform.

The National Dialogues has 5 Pillars:

The First is Conversation with Communities

The purpose is to authentically engage members of the community on the causes and extent of violence against women and children, and possible solutions thereof.

To make members of the communities aware that violence continues because they turn a blind eye to it and do not want to be involved thinking that it is not their problem, while it is theirs as much as it is their neighbours.

To generate Public Knowledge that can then be used by communities to respond to and eradicate violence against women and children in their communities.

The Second is Counselling and Health Services

Violence against women and children is an extremely traumatising experience and the emotional scars associated with it can often outlast the physical impact. The dialogues may re-open the wounds; therefore, we are partnering with the Department of Social Development, Department of Health and the Professional Organisations of Psychologists and Psychiatrists in order to ensure that victims receive counselling.

However, there may be women and children with fresh wounds that they have not received counselling for, this will provide an opportunity for them to receive counselling.

Rural societies experience unique problems in accessing health services, and health issues do contribute to violence, therefore the dialogues will also facilitate access to health checks, testing and other services through the mobile clinics.

The Third is Skills Development and Empowerment

Economic dependency is always sited as one of the reason why women are subjected to violence and endure such violence.

Violence and abuse exert fear on victims to the extent that they do not think that they can survive outside their home in the absence of the abuser and therefore remain in the abusive relationship to avoid the unknown life of "poverty" whilst in actual fact living in poverty.

Economic abuse is defined as domestic violence in the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 hence the National Dialogues also incorporate skills development and economic empowerment in order to empower women in abusive relationships to leave those relationships.

Over and above the challenge of violence, South Africa has a challenge of skills deficit, especially the Artisanal and technical skills. Therefore education and skills development is one of the key strategies to address the triple challenge, thus providing these skills to women will increase their employability and enable them to start their own businesses.

The Department of Women is partnering with Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre to provide training to women on Welding, Plumbing, Boiler making, Rigging, Pipe Fitting, Electrical, Carpentry, Bricklaying, Painting and others. The training will continue beyond the National Dialogues and involves seven steps to being a qualified artisan.

The department is also partnering with the SETAs which will identify women who fit their sector for training and development, including giving them bursaries to pursue certain courses.

These partnerships will address South Africa's shortage of artisan skills; however what is important for me is the fact that we will be giving women artisan skills, which is an area where they are extremely under-represented.

The Fourth is Access to Justice and Service Delivery

Women feel that the criminal justice system is failing them because of attrition where not all reported cases are prosecuted and not all prosecuted cases result in conviction. The focus of this pillar will be to ensure that dormant or cold cases are reopened, and victims are informed about the status of their case or the outcome of the investigation.

We are partnering with the CGE, Women Lawyers, Justice Centres and Paralegals to facilitate access to justice for victims. We will also be working with IPID in order to ensure that women know where to report Police misconducts.

The Fifth is Monitoring and Evaluation of Available Infrastructure and Services to enhance Access to Justice

Access to justice and women empowerment requires efficient and enabling infrastructure. Women who live in deprived areas have a greater burden as they must spend more time fetching water or wood for energy far due to a lack of infrastructure and related services in their communities.

For example, access to basic needs such as water and energy are important in promoting and protecting women's rights to safety. The lack thereof results in women being raped while fetching water or walking in dark streets.

This pillar aims to assess the availability of infrastructure, institutional mechanisms and services in the municipalities; to investigate whether they are functional or not; to assess whether officials within these sectors have been trained or not and to make recommendations for improving access to services.

Working together to move South Africa forward

The Department is working together with the Department of Social Development in order to align the National Dialogues and Mikondzo, and we will have access to the command centre SMS facility during and after the dialogues to provide assistance to victims and to collect data.

The department will also be utilising the household and community profiles created by Mikondzo for identifying individuals to be included in the artisan skills training.

The department will also be partnering with the Department of Health on the HIV and AIDS Dialogues which will focus on young people between the ages of 15 - 24 years in the District Municipalities that have the highest rates of HIV and AIDS.

The department will also be partnering with the Department of Higher Education and Training on the HeAids project that will be rolling-out Dialogues on Sexual Violence at Universities from February 2017.

The outcome of Dialogues will inform the review of the IMC on VAWC Integrated Programme of Action on Violence Against Women and Children (2013 - 2018), it will also contribute to the challenges identified in the DPME Diagnostic Report on VAW&C.

It is envisaged that the Dialogues will revive existing structures and create an opportunity for new ones that will coordinate communities' response to the challenges they experience, which will monitor and evaluate government's response to VAW&C and provide a feedback loop to the criminal justice system.

We are working with all spheres of government, Chapter Nine Institutions, CSOs including Men's Sectors, FBOs, Traditional Leadership Institutions, Business, Labour Organisations and other relevant stakeholders who work within this sector. I call on all of you to be Counted-In.

I thank you.

Source: Department of Women.