Govt partners with religious leaders to curb violence

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pretoria - As part of its commitment to curb violence against women and children, government has partnered with the National Religious Leaders’ Council to end the scourge.

They will roll out joint programmes that will seek to raise public awareness through various faith-based and religious platforms.

The campaign will see the council -- which represents religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, African Traditional Religion groups -- aligning messages in churches to address the scourge. A community mass campaign, branded Vikela Mzantsi, will also be rolled out and a joint march will be held in November.

The new drive will further intensify and spread awareness of the Bill of Responsibilities, which was first announced by the Department of Basic Education in February. The bill is in partnership with LEAD SA.

The bill is aimed at raising awareness and educating the country’s 10.2 million learners about rape and gender violence.

A focus week on the Bill of Responsibilities is also planned for 18 - 20 October 2013.

Speaking about the new initiative on Wednesday, the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said gender-based violence and other forms of violence cannot be reduced or eradicated without effective partnerships and collaboration between government and civil society.

While significant strides have been made towards women emancipation in SA, Xingwana said women continued to face a number of challenges, including violence and abuse, poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“The voice of faith-based organisations is an important voice in the fight against the scourge of gender-based violence and collaboration is necessary in order to [get to the root] of the problem and deal with the root causes that are in the communities, in schools and in families,” said Xingwana.

National Religious Leaders’ Council acknowledged that despite South Africa’s constitutional and legislative protection, violence based on gender remained unacceptably high.

The council’s chairperson, Ray McCauley, said the current spate of brutal gender-based violence was a grave concern to all South Africans, and a painful reminder of the disregard for human life and the rights of women and children.

The religious leaders also noted that the high level of drug and substance abuse among youth was a cause of serious concern and the main contributing factor in perpetuating crimes against women and children.

It was for this reason that Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein reiterated a need for an education campaign on the Bill of Responsibilities in every household.

“It is important to recognise that each right is a value and that as much as people have rights, the rights go with responsibilities,” Goldstein said.

Xingwana said the roll out of the Bill of Responsibilities to communities was “part of rebuilding, and reclaiming communities in line with the principles of Ubuntu, anchored on respect and human dignity”.

She extended an invitation to the media and the entertainment industry to also come on board to address gender-based violence. -