Sunday 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.
SWHAP joins UN Women in commemorating this campaign under the theme, Orange the World: #HearMeToo. The theme builds on the momentum of global movements (#MeToo, #TimesUp) that have brought survivor stories to the forefront of public attention. It is an encouragement to end the culture of silence that surrounds gender-based violence (GBV), a call for systemic change in institutions where GBV is perpetrated and a demand for perpetrators to be held accountable.
Violence against women and girls takes place in public and private spaces, it manifests in many forms including, intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and child marriage. Globally 35% of women have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence (who.org). In Africa, one in three women experience GBV in their life and one in four women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa is married before the age of 18 (ippafar.org).
Survivors of violence often experience physical, emotional and psychological trauma. The impact of this violence extends to families and communities and has a negative impact on social and economic development. Additionally, GBV has been identified as one of the significant drivers of HIV infection, making the elimination of violence against women an important factor in addressing HIV.
GBV is rooted in inequalities and unequal power relations. A recent report on The State of the African Woman notes that “many forms of gender-based violence continue to be accepted among both women and men in African countries, owing to persisting gender norms, beliefs and practices that tolerate or justify gender-based violence against women”. The report goes on to say that “patriarchal gender norms also continue to constitute barriers to access to justice and support” for survivors.
These harmful gender norms need to be challenged to allow survivors of violence to share their experiences without fear of stigma or reprisal, and for them to get access to justice and support.
Companies in the SWHAP network use the structures of their workplace HIV and wellness programmes to address the underlying institutional, social and cultural issues related to GBV. For example:
- Gender mainstreaming and diversity management strategies tackle gender inequalities and issues related to GBV and sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Social dialogues bring men and women together to discuss the various forms of violence and harmful practices against women.
- Education through industrial theatre and role play encourages open communication about harmful gender norms and stereotypes which promote unequal power relations.
- Through workplace HIV and wellness programmes, women are empowered with information on how to respond to different types of violence and how to identify sources of help.
- Discussion forums for male employees actively engage them in efforts to address GBV.
- Companies also conduct community outreach programmes creating understanding on the far-reaching consequences of GBV – promoting long-term social transformation.
Some examples from the SWHAP network:
At the workplace
Under a pilot programme on managing diversity, companies in the SWHAP network in South Africa are using social dialogue to address issues around sexual harassment in the workplace. Steering committees from the different companies have been trained on how to conduct workplace social dialogues (involving management, employees and trade unions) that challenge structures and beliefs that perpetuate violence against women in all spheres. In South Africa, one woman is killed by her intimate partner every eight hours and one in four women is a survivor of domestic violence.
Verde Azul Mozambique, trained community activists to raise awareness on GBV and its consequences for residents of Chizavane Village 280 kilometres northwest of the capital Maputo. The training looked at issues such as; gender and sex; gender roles and stereotypes; and the consequences of violence for victims and their families. Participants were also equipped with information on how to assist survivors of GBV and ways to start addressing power imbalances that contribute to violence.
Working together we can end GBV against women and girls.