Organisation determined to conquer women abuse

Thursday, August 31, 2017

By More Matshediso

While the government has invested a number of resources in an attempt to stop the sexual and violent abuse of women, it remains a prevalent crime.

Recent studies have shown that at least one in five South African women experience abuse in one way or the other. But one organisation is determined to address the scourge and turn the tide against women abuse. She Conquers, a campaign that was launched by government last year to address HIV infections and unwanted pregnancies amongst young women, now wants to broaden its scope to deal with the shameful scourge of sexual and gender-based violence.

The organisation’s chairperson Lerato Morulane says the fight against women abuse will require the energy of society as a whole - men included.

Besides chairing the national campaign, Morulare also serves as the member of the steering committee on the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STI’s 2017-2022.

During an interview with SAnews in Tshwane recently, she highlights that women are not “out to get men”, but holds a belief that problems facing women were created by traditional beliefs of patriarchy and dominance of power, which she believes must be rooted out in order to address the scourge of gender based violence.

As a national campaign, She Conquers is a multi-sectoral campaign that seeks to cover all issues affecting young women and it is run by women. It aims to empower young women to make decisions that reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection and violence and improve their educational and economic position.

Most of the issues facing young women today stem from how men have always dominated in society.

Patriarchy continues to define relations within the home, where women are often confined to play inferior roles such as perform unpaid domestic labour, Deputy President Ramaphosa said recently.

Constraints that are imposed on women limit their opportunities to find work and access a number of opportunities including education, leaving them vulnerable and almost dependent on men to survive.

Morulane believes that if a way to deconstruct power domination could be found, many women would not be victimised and denied access to things they want.

“It’s time that we take a stand and speak out about all issues that affect us. Women need to be empowered with the economic privileges that men enjoy. Women do speak out. We are listened to, but unfortunately we are not heard.

“Some of our challenges are not believed until a life is lost then people want to condemn and stand up,” says Morulane.

She says all women want is for justice to be served and want prison sentences for perpetrators to be prolonged.

Health Minister Aaron Motswaledi has reported that in the 22 priority sub-districts where She Conquers has been rolled out, more than 230 000 adolescent girls and young women have taken the HIV tests. Of those tested, 18 000 were positive and were immediately linked to care.

Health Statistics also show that there are approximately 2000 new HIV infections among young women and girls every week in South Africa, which got the Minister saying although more women are infected by the disease as compared to men, the disease is mainly spread by men.

Morulane says the number of infections should be reduced to at least 500 per week, and also having educational and business opportunities opened up for women.

She believes that society was never prepared to address the realities and pressures that young women are facing.

Morulane says most girls are in a vulnerable state due to not having means to provide for their educational needs, and this makes them easy targets of successful men who front as people willing to help them. The problem has been exacerbated by absence of fathers in many South African homes.

Morulane says if young women had financial means and ideal economic opportunities, inter-generational relationships would only exist based on mutual respect and treatment.

But even those women who are independent are still facing abuse. Women need to be empowered on how to communicate with their partners about protected sex and elements of abuse, and also to be courageous to immediately report cases of abuse, she says.

“People are still afraid of speaking about their ordeals. They do not know who to speak to, especially when they are abused by family members or partners. They feel embarrassed and fear being judged and are not sure if people are being sincere.”

The media, by the virtue of the influence it has in society, has a role to play in changing the mind-set of patriarchal attitudes, says Morulane.

She says for South Africa to reduce statistics of gender based violence and to combat killings of women, both young women and men have to know about the impact that abuse has on victims and survivors.

Abuse does not only affect the victim but also relatives, as they constantly have to give emotional and psychological support for as long as is necessary.

Morulane believes that even if things can turn around and the number of abuse cases is reduced, campaigns such as She Conquers should continue doing their work for the sake of the next

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