Minister shares her views on 16 days

Friday, November 27, 2009

The new Minister for Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, is the first to admit that although in its tenth year, there is a disjuncture between the high levels of awareness of the 16 Days campaign and the persisting abuse of women and children.

"It is of concern to me that for the last ten years as a country we have done much to raise awareness on the issue of violence against women and children but it doesn't seem to respond to the campaign.

"We must elevate 16 Days and contribute towards finally reducing the levels of violence against our women and children," she says.

This year officially marks the 10th anniversary of the campaign, but while it has succeeded in raising awareness amongst the South African public and focuses on increasing awareness of the detrimental effects of violence on women and children, Mayende-Sibiya says the continuing incidents of violence necessitate a review of the programmes around fighting gender-based violence.

And who better to do this than her newly created department.

As a start, the review of the programmes that have been implemented over the past years was the primary focus this week of a summit held to mark the official commencement of this year's campaign.

"The terrible cases of abduction, rape and murder of little children are making headlines in many areas of our country," says Mayende-Sibiya.

As a further response to this challenge, her ministry has commissioned a study which seeks to build a profile of a child murderer currently held in correctional service centres. The outcome of the study is expected to be released soon as the verification process is finalised.

Mayende-Sibiya, who is extremely passionate about her new ministry and the role it will play does not downplay the need for communities to speak out against any form of violence and abuse.

"We need a society that is mobilised to appreciate that it has an important role to play in the fight against violence against women and children and also the fight against crime. Parents must play their role. Our communities must speak out."

And to women who are being abused, the minister says they need to know that they have rights enshrined in the Constitution and through the different international instruments that South Africa is a signatory to.

"They also have rights to stand up and get out of abusive relationships. Many women have taken that decision to get out and have claimed back their lives," she says.

Recognising that it is a difficult decision for a woman to make, she says its one that the individual has to make for herself.

"It's very important for a person to take that decision on their own, that they are getting out. We are there to support them and to ensure that the perpetrators are dealt with through the law," she says.

For many women, says Mayende-Sibiya, leaving an abusive partner is difficult because of the financial dependency on their abusive partners.

But she remains adamant: "Abuse cannot be accepted, violence of any kind cannot be accepted - that is the mantra that women should adopt."