This year, on 23 November 2018, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) kicked off their “16 Days of Activism Campaign for No Violence against Women and Children” at their head-office in George.
The official launch took place at the GRDM and attracted a full house of representatives from local municipalities in the district, the South African Police Service, the Department of Social Services, Correctional Services, Phambili Centre and Working-on-Fire (WOF), who took hands with the municipality in this endeavor.
In officially opening the event, Executive Deputy Mayor of GRDM, Cllr Rosina Ruiters, lit a candle in remembrance of the victims of violence, more specifically women and children. The spirit in the chambers immediately changed when Acting Speaker of GRDM, Cllr Barnie Groenewald, welcomed the guests with the words: “Stand up, speak out, act, love and protect”. WOF representatives performed a song and poem depicting the trauma women experience when they fall victim to violence.
Sector Commander for the Garden Route cluster, Major-General Oswald Reddy, from the South African Police Service (SAPS), after announcing that a total of 54 to 57 people are murdered on a daily basis in South Africa, stated: “We live in a violent society where people have a high level of intolerance”. Reddy advised that people should use conflict resolution management to deal with disagreements and not use violence as a resolution. Among the 2017/2018 statistics revealed by Sergeant Adele van der Pool, 15 women and 14 children were murdered; 200 women and 104 children were sexually assaulted; 226 children and 321 women were raped. Van der Pool further revealed that 2 824 assaults were reported of which 250 were children and 991 women. Investigating Officer, Sergeant Booysen, pleaded to all representatives present: “For months, mothers, aunts and teachers are aware of violent cases that were never reported – we need you to stand up and talk, whether the perpetrator is your husband or boyfriend, let us stand together and work as a team”.
Area Commissioner for Correctional Services, Ms Ndileka Booi, during her speech stated that there are 13 cases of women who are currently sentenced at the Oudtshoorn Correctional facility after they have committed a crime as a reaction to abuse. Now they have to serve years of imprisonment, which could have been prevented, if they had reported their cases before they committed the crime.
Ms Zingiswa Williams from the Department of Social Development, informed the audience about the Department’s three-fold Victim Empowerment Programme which is designed to support and empower victims of violence, whether the victims are referrals or intakes. Read more about the programme at https://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/social-development/services/1069/37714.
An activist for “No Violence against Women and Children” and resident of the Phambili Centre in Rosemoor, George, Ms Christelle Damons, shared her personal story with the audience and spoke about how she was abused and how the experience repeated itself over and over again. Through all these years she also made wrong choices, but she lifted herself up when she reported the case to SAPS. SAPS consequently advised her to be accommodated by the Phambili Centre in Rosemoor. The Centre accommodated her and took care of her and her two children during this traumatic time of her live. Her final message to the audience was: “It does not matter what you went through, talk to somebody or report the case”.
Executive Deputy Mayor of GRDM, Cllr Rosina Ruiters, in her keynote address, urged members of the community and all present to always listen to their children. “We need to take everything that our children share with us serious and we need to ACT. Cllr Ruiters added: “Sometimes parents or family members hear what the children say, but we often do not believe them, due to our perception of the accused. We cannot ask our children to be open towards us as parents, yet we listen to them with a selective ear or we do not believe everything they say”.
With these words, she closed off: “Let us continue to be active and vibrant custodians to fight all forms of violence against women and children and let us encourage our communities to report these crimes and through this, we all will be the beneficiaries of a better and healthier Garden Route district”.
In closing, representatives present signed a pledge to support all women and children in the Garden Route in the fight against abuse, after which GRDM Portfolio Chairperson for Rural Development, Cllr Joslyn Johnson thanked all representatives who took hands with GRDM and who attended the event.