BLACK FRIDAY – AN ACTION POINT FOR SOUTH AFRICA

Kgothatso Mokoena is from the YWCA of South Africa. Kgothatso has joined the World YWCA for a one-year internship with the Programme Department.

On February 2, 2013, just 6 weeks after news of the shocking incident of rape and murder of a young woman in India, a security guard found Anene Booysen, a 17 year old girl with parts of her intestines strewn next to her in the dirt at a construction site, in Capetown, South Africa. Before she died, Anene was gang raped. On February 14th, 172 countries across the world stood in unity with the One Billion Rising Campaign, including South Africa, with one voice to say “Enough is enough” and to demand an end to violence against women.

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Kgothatso Mokoena

The Booysen tragedy reached international headlines and South Africa’s society was seen as a place where rape of women and children occur often. However, I am touched by the apparent unity amongst Government and Civil Society Organisations that rose together to combat the issue and protest against such horrific acts of violence.

On February 15th, with one voice and one heart and as a reaction to the countless number of incidents of violence against women, South Africa came together to show support to the survivors of violence by wearing black. This symbolised that the country was in mourning once again. The campaign aimed to take a strong stand by sidelining all other priorities and remaining in solidarity with survivors and victims of Gender Based Violence.

On February 21, 2013, several NGOs (YWCA of South Africa included) held a dawn ceremony on Table Mountain in Cape Town. In Johannesburg, NGOs, CSOs and activists marched to the Commemoration Ceremony that took place at the Constitutional Hill to honour Anene Booysen and other victims.

Civil Society Organisations called for a Commission of enquiry and a Special Fund to end sexual violence. This motion was initiated by a letter that had been prepared to go to the President and the Minister of Finance, urging them to set aside R10 billion to support women’s organisations and to institute the Commission. The content of the letter to President Zuma will reflect upon the following:

The Commission on Sexual Violence will be appointed by the National President, and will be chaired by a senior jurist with the stature and experience to affect systemic change.

The commission will examine and provide recommendations to address the causes of violence, with a heavy focus on violence at the community and family levels, along with key obstacles in the implementation of laws which ensure that women and girls can enjoy their constitutional rights to their security, dignity and equality. There was a request for a special fund to prevent sexual violence which will provide support services to women and girls through NGOs and Non Profit Organisations that have a demonstrated track record of success in combating sexual violence.

We need to take pride and realise that the time for talking is long over, it is now time to act by fully implementing our promises, pledges and programmes.

Personally, I think men in our communities need to be involved as part of the process of change and they should take a stand. There can be no more excuses on the causes of rape and concrete action needs to be taken to stop it once and for all. Fathers must communicate to their sons that manhood is not achieved through violence and oppression of women.

 

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Rising Again

The third meeting of the High Level Panel (HLP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda was held in Monrovia, Liberia. The theme of the meeting was “National Building Blocks for Sustained Properity – Economic Transformation”.

Jacque Koroi (YWCA of Fiji)a World YWCA Intern, who was present at the Monrovia HLP  shares her observations from the experience.

Jacque Koroi

Jacque Koroi

Women Oh Women’ shouted the Minister for Gender, Liberia. ‘This is our time’ came the reply from women of different backgrounds in the audience. And together everyone shouted ‘Women, don’t just sit down, we stand up and do something positive with the men’.  This was one of the many chants the Ministry for Gender put together as part of their women’s outreach programme.

 Liberia is a nation slowly moving forward after 14 years of Civil War (1989-2003) that left their infrastructure in ruins, families losing loved ones to the war and hurtful memories. Nevertheless a billboard on the roadside reminds everyone that ‘Liberia is on the Rise Again’.

During my 10 hour plane ride to Monrovia, I sat next to a man, also a pastor and father. He had a very captivating story about how he took shelter in the bush with his family during the war to stay clear from the violence. During this time, his son got sick and he couldn’t take his child to the hospital, his son died. This man watched many of his people lose their lives and still found it in his heart to forgive the perpetrators and help to rebuild the nation.  I also met a young man who is hoping someday to go back to school, at 27 he cannot read or write properly, and is working to support his younger bother in primary school.

 Apart from the history of the civil war, Liberia is the first African nation to have a woman democratically elected as Head of State, Her Excellency Ellen Johnston Sirleaf. Oh, and some  women groups have also put a song for her called ‘Mama Ellen we Love you,  Mama Ellen dats u, Mama Ellen you gave us dignity’, Oh Mama Ellen we love you’.  I must say, it was really inspiring to be amongst the Liberian women as they sang, danced and were full of life. I got hooked and hummed the song to myself on the plane ride home, days later.

 Madame Ellen Johnston is also one of the three co-chairs of the 27 members of the High Level Panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The other co-chairs are President Susilo Bamband Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. In this capacity, Ms Johnston hosted the 3rd High Level Panel in Monrovia (Jan 28th– Feb 2nd). Two days had been set aside for a Civil Society Consultation with the High Level Panel. The World YWCA delegation consisted of our General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Rosaline Toweh (Liberia) Nelly Lukale (Kenya) and I (Fiji). We were also joined on a few occasions by the President and Treasurer of the YWCA Liberia. It was an interesting meeting overall, and key outcomes included retaining a stand alone MDG on Gender Equality with additional targets and indicators, stronger attention on sexual and reproductive health and rights work moving beyond the GDP measurement to include the health and social well-being of citizens.

 The MDG review process is a critical time for the world, it will define our global priorities and direct resources towards achieving it, both human and natural for the next two decades. The World YWCA is engaging in the different consultations, and if you are keen, you can also lend your voice to the consultation process whilst time is still on our side.  

Link: Online Forum for Beyond 2015

How from a rape a billion rose

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Ramya Jawahar Kudekallu

Ramya Kudekallu is from the YWCA of Bangalore City, India. She’s an advocate and community volunteer in her home city. She is one of the new chosen World YWCA interns for 2013 and will be working closely with the Communications Department at the World YWCA Office.

This is her reflection on the recent tragic circumstances in her Nation’s capital and the work her local YWCA is doing towards leading a change in India. 

On the16th of December 2012, in the capital city of New Delhi, a young medical student and her male friend boarded a private bus after a late movie at 9.30pm. The driver of the bus and 5 other men confirmed that the bus would be going to their destination.

Within minutes of their boarding the couple felt uncomfortable when the doors of the bus were shut and the 6 men on board began surrounding them.

The young woman was continuously raped by all 6 accused and her male friend was beaten unconscious. She was then pounded repeatedly and violated with a rusted steel rod (which allegedly caused fatal septicaemia). After hours of this treatment, the couple was thrown out of the vehicle naked and brutally injured.

The rape victim suffered from internal bleeding and her intestines were damaged beyond repair because of the violent penetration. 13 days later ‘Nirbhaya’ as she was named (meaning the ‘Fearless one’) died because of the seriousness of her injuries.

The incident transformed a nation. Women decided that they would no longer sit back and watch episode after episode of violence against them take place.

India broke out into protest. Citizens were on the streets in the thousands standing before offices of Government. The only resounding notion that echoed within these minds and hearts was – ‘It could have been me, or my sister, or my mother, or my daughter’, and that such a thing should never happen again.

Protestors in New Delhi, including members and staff of the YWCA of India, were confronted with tear gas, water canons and police charges. Unable to control the emotional uproar, the Government of India had no choice but to review its laws on rape.

Reports and statistics say that a girl is raped in India every 20 minutes, and every 5 minutes in other parts of the world.

The YWCA of India, although actively involved in December’s protest, has been advocating for the end of violence against women long before the Delhi incident.

The YWCA of India, along with other women’s rights organisations, has formulated a submission to Justice Verma Committee (a Government appointed panel that was put into place to review penal provisions on the crime of rape). Some of the recommendations included establishing preventive safety measures, Fast Track Courts, improvement of efficiency in investigation, enhancement of punishment and inclusion of ‘marital rape’ into the purview of the definition.

An equally strong memorandum was prepared to the Delhi police asserting the need to improve safety measures for women living in the city.

Local Associations of the YWCA of India have been involving survivors of abuse and violence for decades, provided rehabilitations centres, help lines, self defence classes, crisis cells, free counselling and safe homes for women across the country.

An element of the YWCA’s role is to provide support and a safe place for all women, regardless of their circumstances and background.

What happened to the young woman in New Delhi has shocked the world and has created a strong emotional reaction. Yet this keeps on happening, all over the world. Nothing is more excruciating than hearing of a ‘Nirbhaya’, other than perhaps being a ‘Nirbhaya.

Stories like these need to become a thing of the past.

Links:

African Union Summit-Standing with Pride

The World YWCA and its partners took a delegation of 40 young women to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in January 2013. For the first time young women had a chance to speak to their leaders, to practice advocacy at the highest levels of leadership on the continent. 24 year old Rebecca Phwitiko, President of the YWCA of Malawi and World YWCA board member shares her experience.

I stood there with pride – proud to be a young woman, proud to be a young African woman… staring at portraits of our founding fathers, from Kwame Nkrumah to Nelson Mandela. I’m really standing here, at the headquarters of the African Union.

Rebecca Phwitiko

Rebecca Phwitiko

It seems somehow fitting that I’m here, at a time when a great woman of this land is heading this organisation, occupying the highest seat on the continent, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The gods are smiling on me today, in this moment, this whole week. Talking to my peers, young women from all corners of the beautiful continent, sharing common fears, goals and aspirations. Sharing this space with our mentors, wonderful powerful women from the movement and beyond.

Lessons on leadership from Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, about lifting and supporting each other from Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and President Joyce Banda of Malawi.

Spending time with women who have given their entire lives to the cause of women and girls, those who have gone before us to question the misuse of culture and religion to oppress and sideline women.

Standing next to Dr Zuma, in her office, speaking to her directly, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I have met my share of influential, powerful people – I’m not really a star eyed groupie. But today it feels personal. Perhaps it is because of the way she received us, in her office, her space. Perhaps it is because of what it means for her to be in this chair, today.

Maybe it’s because of the millions of girls that don’t even know I’m here and yet I have to speak for. It’s because of who she is, what she represents on a continent that has seen too much pain, too much negativity.

So I stood there with pride, proud to be part of the YWCA movement and the work that we do and must continue to do. Proud that the YWCA always finds spaces for young women to shine and grow.

I salute the women of the YWCA, the women of Africa, the women of the world. My sisters, my mothers, my grandmothers.  In this moment I fully appreciate the urgency, the importance of lifting up another just as I have been lifted high. And so I return home, to lift another, every day.