16 Days Of Activism Against The Abuse Of Women and Children is an annual government-led campaign that takes place in South Africa – a country where the abuse of women and children is very widespread – and seeks to combat that violence using tools such as social media, television and radio advertising to raise awareness.
For the most part, this is an initiative largely supported by all in society. However, it unfortunately achieves very little in successfully changing things around for the better.
South Africa is a country that is desperately plagued with patriarchal ideals. From a young age, a boy will be taught to never cry as this is viewed as a sign of weakness. A young girl is taught to always keep her opinion to herself, as it will supposedly always be secondary to that of her male counterparts. Slowly, the poison that is patriarchy seeps its way into adulthood where it manifests itself in various forms that translate into abuse, both physical and emotional.
Perhaps the most disturbing factor though, is society’s casual dismissal and nonchalant attitude towards certain forms of abuse that take place daily.
Three years ago at the Noord taxi rank in Johannesburg, two young women, both teenagers, were the subject of public ridicule when a crowd of men, reported to be between 50 and 60 men, chased the girls outside the rank before groping them. One of those girls was said to be wearing a miniskirt.
A year before that, at the same taxi rank, A woman in her twenties had her clothes torn off by taxi drivers as well as hawkers while walking down the street. All this happened as the crowd cheered on. This was seen as a lesson for having worn a miniskirt.Sadly these are some of many stories I hear from women that I meet. I constantly experience the daily trauma of being catcalled, touched and even sworn at by men who feel entitled to my attention and my body. Men who will chase me down the street and physically attack me for not responding to their advances.
Until we as people can unlearn all these small patriarchal acts and until we can learn to not turn a blind eye to such behavior, the achievements of campaigns like 16 days of activism will always amount to very little.
Written By: Zuleka Pukwana, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad