Women march against gender-based violence

The women from Sisters Incorporated in Kenilworth stood out in their pink.

The city centre’s roads were painted black and red as women from all over the city kicked off Women’s Month with a march against gender-based violence last week.

The march, organised by the Total Shutdown Campaign, was part of several women-only protests around the country.

Dressed in red and black, the women took to the streets with posters saying: “My body, not your crime scene”; “This is a child, not your wife”; and “Enough is enough”.

Shahida Meniers, who is part of the organising committee for the Total Shutdown, said the campaign started around a conversation about violence.

“One woman posted it on Facebook and there was an enormous response, and then a Facebook page called the Total Shutdown was opened. People started sharing stories and we decided there is a need for something to be done. Today the Facebook page has more than 100 000 likes. She said the stories they come across on Facebook include those of women who are not protected by interdicts and protection orders, as well as stories of domestic violence.

“Then there are men who think that if you smile with them then you agreeing to something else and if you don’t want to give in to any demands then they rape you.

“Others break up with the boyfriends, then the boyfriends still harass them then if they move on with their lives, the boyfriend gets jealous and kills them.”

She said it was difficult for them to deal with because they were not professionals or social workers, however, on the Facebook page, there is now a network of women who can help others with these issues.

She said the women then came together and decided to have a march on the first day of Women’s Month to tell the government they are frustrated.

“We are tired of waking up every morning to news that another woman has been raped, another woman has been killed, another child gone missing, raped and brutally killed.”

Ms Meniers said while this is the first event of the Total Shutdown campaign, they plan to have many more.

“We don’t want it to only be the march today, we want women of South Africa to unite. We want to have referrals wherever they need to be referred to if they need help. We want to give women assistance when they have their court proceedings and so forth – that’s the aim of this.

“To government we want to say: ‘You must do something about the violent killings in this country’.”

The women marched to Parliament to hand over a memorandum requesting, among other things, that the three spheres of government work together for a better South Africa, and that the Presidency not appoint people who are implicated in gender violence and abuse.

There were a number of organisations marching to support the cause.

Sisters Incorporated, an organisation which aims to assist women and children in a crisis, wore pink T-shirts and held their banners, which read STOP, and #mybody.

Delene Roberts, the shelter manager, said they were there to say enough is enough.

“We are a shelter for abused women and children and we see what goes on daily.

“The fact that women live in fear and they can’t escape because shelters are always full is really sad.”

She said the shelter has been in existence for almost 60 years and they want women to know that there is help for them. We want to make a statement today, that’s why we opted to wear pink instead of black and red.”

Women from Where Rainbows Meet, an organisation from Vrygrond near Grassy Park, held a banner saying: “Hands off our children”.

Where Rainbows Meet founder Mymoena Scholtz, said they have had enough of the crime against women and children.

“The plea of the children is not being heard. We cannot tolerate these crimes anymore – it’s too severe and too painful.”

She said they want to ask the government for no bail for rapists and murderers. “We are fed up,” said Ms Scholtz.

Lungisa Huna of the Rural Women’s Assembly said they were representing the rural women, as well as supporting all other women.

“We’ve had enough of abuse. We are here on this cloudy day waiting for the rain to pour to support us, but come rain or shine, we will support this cause.

“We are here on the shoulders of our mothers, and we are fighting for our future – our children and grandchildren.”

She said women have the right to walk wherever they wanted to and dress whichever way they choose.

“It is our choice, it’s not your right to abuse us.”

Carin Bester came dressed in shackles and a skirt made of newspaper clippings of all the women and children recently raped and murdered.

“My outfit is in mourning of every women and child that has been killed. As women, we are living in shackles. We are not free.

“This is in memory of everyone that is killed in society daily.”

DA members of parliament Terri Stander and Phumzile van Damme also supported the march.

Ms Stander, who is on the portfolio committee for women in the presidency, said she wanted to support the movement.

“It was a great initiative started by a group of women. I don’t know if it will change anything but they must keep at it. They must not give up on being heard.”

Ms Van Damme said women and the issues they are facing must be linked to every other department in government.

“These issues have taken a back seat for too long. Gender focal points, which deal with gender, are dysfunctional. Gender issues have completely collapsed and nothing has been done to revive it, so it isn’t being taken serious.”