Do your bit to ensure the safety of women and children

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March 8 saw the the 42nd celebration of International Women’s Day and this year, as in previous years, there was a strong focus on fighting crime against women and children.

With this year’s theme set as “Press for Progress”, the day’s celebration was aimed at motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and communities to think and act in ways which are more gender-inclusive.

This will be done through campaigns aimed at educating the public of ways in which they can create safe spaces for women and children in their communities.

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As some of the most vulnerable members of society, women and children are regularly identified as soft targets by criminals and therefore need to practise vigilance to avoid becoming a crime statistic.

According to Shakina Mohamed, chief executive officer of GRIP, domestic violence and gender abuse occur when an abuser subjects any person to physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse as well as economic abuse.

She added that intimidation, harassment, stalking and damage to property or any other controlling behaviours are considered signs of abuse, and recommended that anyone experiencing these circumstances have a safety plan in place.

“In South Africa we don’t have a national strategic plan with regard to the management of gender-based violence, which makes it extremely difficult to address this far-reaching and all-pervasive social ill effectively,” she said.

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Mohamed added that although there is great value in awareness-raising campaigns such as the International Women’s Day celebrations and campaigns, far more emphasis needs to be placed on the role of society as a whole in addressing gender-based violence.

“People don’t get raped because of what they wear or where they are, they get raped because rapists rape. That’s the issue we need to address. It’s never the victim’s fault and we as citizens need to make general society a safer place for women and children,” she said.

According to a list of safety plans to keep in mind when experiencing gender-based violence or domestic abuse compiled by GRIP, it is important not to address the issue on your own.

Have a place to go to if necessary and keep a bag that contains extra clothing for yourself and your children. Copies of important documents and spare house and car keys are also of crucial importance. Be sure to keep in touch with a neighbour or someone in close proximity and keep the numbers of emergency contacts on speed dial.

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Children who are old enough should be informed of signs of impending violence and should have access to the relevant phone numbers and means of contacting the SAPS, family or neighbours.

“With only about 10 per cent of accused in cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence being sentenced in South Africa, the issues we face as a society are dire and need everyone’s attention,” said Mohamed.

“International Women’s Day is a wonderful initiative in raising awareness, but at the end of the day these issued should be at the forefront of what each of us as citizens do to make society a safer place for all, 365 days a year.”

For more information about GRIP and its work, feel free to contact the counselling and information hotline on 083-310-1321.

  AUTHOR
Hancu Louw

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