events-violence-against-women1

International Day for Violence Against Women

Why South African youth should care about violence against women, how it affects them, what they can do.

Violence against women affects all of us. It does not just affect the woman involved but it affects her immediate family members, her children, her friends, her partner (in the rare occasion that the perpetrator is not the partner) and even her co-workers.

I can give you the statistics and allow the horrific figures illustrating the increase of violence against women, to scream at you: “This is why we should care! This is why we should do something NOW!” But you have heard it all before. Every year this time, we publish these figures and we are all shook. On to Facebook, Twitter and the Gram we go to express our outrage and how we will no longer stand for violence against women, we protest and tweet with all the right hashtags, exclaiming our anger and upset.  We do this, for an entire 16 days. Then life goes on and a new hashtag starts trending. Don’t get me wrong, I know we still care, but somehow the anger subsides, and we walk away a little less affected. Or do we?

We know violence and abuse against women has long-term psychological effects and can cause long-term physical and mental health problems for the individual. It also has a domino effect on their children, families, and communities, including the youth community. Dealing with the after effects of violence and abuse can hinder your decision making, your performance at work and your confidence in your own ability and power. When you have been robbed of your own power, doubt your own confidence, it is difficult to take advantage of opportunities at work, business and your community. Thus, violence against women is a contributor to existing economic inequalities.

We know that the economic empowerment of women is a key driver for sustainable development and that it is a catalyst for gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth, including the employment of youth. In South Africa we face a very scary youth unemployment rate of 38.2%. According to The World Bank, violence against women is estimated to cost some countries up to 3.7% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To put this figure in context – it is more than double what most governments spend on education. Last year KPMG reported, using a conservative estimate, that gender-based violence costs South Africa between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP annually, this amounts to between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion per year. We all suffer the costs of violence and abuse against women. So, we can NOT afford to ignore or to be passive about anything affecting women empowerment. We can not afford to ignore or passively wait for action against violence and abuse of women. This can no longer be viewed as a private matter – violence and abuse against women is a public matter.

We are the youth and we are the change agents we need. Let’s continue to use our millennial super powers by consistently doing what we do best. We should continue to challenge social and political norms. We must address and stop contributing towards stereotypes that perpetuate violence and abuse against women. So how exactly do we do this? Here are some ideas:

  • create impactful social protests or social media campaigns;
  • volunteer at women shelters and children homes;
  • volunteer or intern at institutions that fight against gender-based violence;
  • speak up against victim shaming;
  • reach out and connect with victims and all affected parties;
  • become informed and educated on the topic and empower others with the knowledge and
  • report (you can do this anonymously) all crime that you have witnessed.

Simonne Stellenboom stands for equal education, women empowerment and youth development. She is a freelance social Entrepreneur. Her services include writing, small business consultancy and NGO development support. You can contact her on stelenboom.s@gmail.com  or www.thegirlnextdoor.biz/