*Content Warning: this article discusses gendered violence, femcide, rape and murder
August ninth marked the celebration of South Africa’s history-changing women’s march of 1956. On this day approximately 20 000 women across the country’s racialised communities marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria—mobilised in protest and petition against the country’s pass laws that required individuals racialised as Black under the Apartheid state’s Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport known as a dompas and thus, further impeded on the possibility of and access to free movement of Black women in urban areas. By the day’s end; 110 rapes would have been reported and 56 women would have been murdered—that is, if we are to go on reports published on GBV statistics in the country. So, what does it mean to observe Women’s day and month in a country where the conditions of our violent past(s) continue to traumatise us through mutated articulations such as femcide? What does it mean to observe women’s day in a country where GBV statistics place us in the same categories as countries at war? Where gendered and racialised people are more likely to survive the trauma of rape than receive an education, and the government’s gender based violence strategies are seething with victim blaming tactics? Some of us, have been in observation of Women’s day/month from our body’s first encounter(s) with gendered violence and have been moving through this world anxiously ever since. These encounters often crash into us before we even know how to formulate the weighty word of woman on our tongues; those times umalume came over to visit the family and you were told to cover up your growing up child body. The beginning of this is always a chorus of women who have come back from burying their dead.
In committing to being part of the collective fight towards the pursuit of gender justice, the MultiChoice Group (MCG), has partnered up with the Department of Social Development (DSD), People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) and the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation to speak out against the injustices of gender based violence (GBV) and femicide in South Africa. This partnership aims to educate and mobilise citizens in order to eradicate acts of violence against women and children, while this particular campaign centralises violence against women and children, it is imperative to constantly be aware of the fact that it isn’t only women and children affected/effected by the trauma of GBV. Last year, our country collectively mourned the brutalisation and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana while declarations of “we promise to do better” by men, formed the accompanying funeral march hymn. However, through the formation of the foundation in her memory; tragedy was recuperated in love for healing and gender justice work.
The idea of the foundation was placed on the families heart during the time of Uyinene’s passing. The need to start a foundation was to restore hope in people’s lives in a time of mourning and hopelessness in South Africa and abroad. The family was moved to do more to contribute towards a safer society. The aim of the foundation is to celebrate Uyinene’s life and to keep her legacy, the aim is also to prevent further gender based violence and femicide and to support those that are affected by the scourge of GBV…
Shared the foundation’s managing Director, Masimbulele Buso. The MCG will work in collaboration with the organisations to develop on-air educational material aimed at driving awareness and curtailing acts of violence against women and children. This began earlier in the month of August, through its DStv platform and reach—with an aim to spotlight the work of these partner organisations and messages in line with the call to combat GBV in South Africa. The gendered violence inflicted onto Uyinene has morphed to form a part of our country’s DNA, there are so many names of survivors we do not know and thus cannot say and part of doing the work of fighting GBV is to ensure that no name, person or life falls through the cracks, as expressed by Masimbulele Buso:
The conversation around gender based violence is one that has been long overdue in our communities. Although the conversation seems to have started a long time ago, we as a country are still learning and grappling with it. There is a natural tendency from a patriarchal society to victim blame and to place responsibility to the women who has been battered and abused, whilst simultaneously protecting the identities and lives of the perpetrators. This is done all in the name of abolishing gender based violence. This on its own is a form of abuse and violation of women in the society. There needs to be an awareness raising, a learning and an unlearning of the ways in which cases of gender based violence are responded to. As a foundation we acknowledge that your voice has power. There is a process of reclaiming ones power and sense of control when stories and experiences of trauma are shared. This allows individuals to bend together in solidarity, to allow their trauma to bloom into a revolution and a movement towards change. It is unfortunate that women have to be placed in this position to begin with. However, as a foundation we want to create a safe and supportive space where these stories of hope can be shared in hopes that they will help the next women.