‘Women should learn their rights’

Imelda Greef from Belgravia Estate joined the march.

Themed “I am not next”, the Cape Town Central police, in partnership with the SAPS Women’s Network and Born Victorious Foundation, held a workshop at the Castle of Good Hope to coincide with the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, which ends on Tuesday December 10.

The programme, held on Friday November 29, started with various organisations marching for the rights of women and children from the Cape Town Central police station to the Castle of Good Hope, handing out information pamphlets to passers-by.

At the event, station commander Brigadier Hansia Hansraj, said: “Seated among us are women who suffer this hurt on a daily basis, but are too afraid to tell anyone for fear of being labelled or not supported. We need to stand up against perpetrators and learn to support ourselves.”

She said older women should educate younger girls about their rights.

“We need to teach our young girls to be smart and independent, and to know their rights.”

She said there had been an increase in rape in the area policed by Cape Town Central.

However, she said: “If the number of rape cases have increased, it means we have achieved something – it means people are reporting rape, which is good.”

Pastor Zintle Ndamase, the chairperson of Born Victorious Foundation, an NGO which provides support to youth and children, said the theme “I am not next”, came from the uproar in South Africa over a spate of women murders, including that of Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, who was raped and killed by Luyanda Botha, a worker at Clareinch post office in Claremont (“Come in if you’re unsafe”, CapeTowner, September 12).

“Today, we need to ask ourselves ‘What am I going to do to ensure that my neighbour, my mother, or my sister is not next?’

“We need to take a stand and figure out what we can do to make a difference. Men need to take responsibility too, as they make up the majority of the perpetrators.

“Men, educate and mentor young men to change their mindsets. Educate our youth about gender-based violence and the issues we face in our communities.”

Pastor Basha Taylor, founder of Women and Beyond, an NPO which provides support and services to women and children living in poverty, questioned why the uproar caused by the deaths of young women only lasted for a few days. “Why are we so comfortable with killing that when someone’s child dies, we move on days later? The phrase ‘I am not next’ tells me that we are taking responsibility, and that we will not sit back while these things happen.”

She added that men were not immune to rape and murder, and that she had worked with men who were victims too. “16 Days of Activism is for everyone, against all perpetrators. Let’s not make this someone else’s problem, and let’s not wait until someone we love dies or is murdered.”

Marisca Rudman, who is a survivor, shared her story. “I am not next is a great idea, but to me it is untruthful – how many people are not next? The truth is that everyone has been next. Everyone in this room has experienced or witnessed violence.”

When Ms Rudman was a toddler, she was first exposed to violence when she saw her grandfather hitting her grandmother, whom she had stayed with as her mother could not take care of her.

At five years old, she was molested, and later on in her teens, was sexually abused by a family member.

When she was at college at 18, she was raped and fell pregnant, but gave the baby up for adoption.

She never told anyone, she said, but she had hope which kept her going.

She then met someone whom she described as “wonderful”, but he died in a car accident. In her next relationship, her partner beat her.

“I went through this for six years. I had broken ribs, was urinated and defecated on; I had my teeth knocked out of my mouth and my sinuses knocked in.”

After she plucked up the courage to leave, the man stalked her. “I then met someone else,” she said. But within two months, he was also hitting her.

“He stole from me, beat me with an iron. I fell pregnant with this man’s baby.”

When her son fell ill and she had to rush him to hospital, she was told that he too had been physically abused. He had two broken arms and broken ribs and succumbed to his injuries.

“I was arrested for his murder,” she said.

After a four-year trial, she was found guilty of being an accessory to murder, and her partner, Nolan Schoeman, was found guilty of murder.

“This is just to show you what happens if you don’t let abuse go.

“I want to tell people that you could save someone with just one knock. If you hear commotion at your neighbour’s house, knock on the door. You don’t have to stay to confront the situation or even say anything, but that moment could be the moment that someone was distracted while choking or stabbing their spouse. We can change lives with just one knock.”

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