As South Africa observes 16 Days of Activism opposing Violence Against Women and Children from 25 November to 10 December, the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (CRF) is calling on civil society, government and business to work together to tackle the underlying causes of violence in society.
The Thari Programme, established by CRF, is an example of what can be achieved when communities and partners collaborate to tackle a social ill.
Through its work in schools, CRF correlated that the increase of abuse, neglect and domestic violence has a direct impact on the progress made in education. With this background, the foundation realised that an attempt to curb violence occurring in schools; needed to be extended beyond the school itself. Parental and community support is essential.
Having reached over 3500 community members in the past nine months, the Thari Programme has highlighted 16 ways that every person can help end the abuse of women and children.
The roots of rape-culture and abuse start at childhood. Teaching children at a young age about what consent means will change their perspectives on gender, sexuality and violence, in turn helping to protect them from harm and from harming others.
Some tips include: *
- Children should be taught to recognise the difference between safe and unsafe touching.
- While children can recognise the difference between safe and unsafe touching, they also need to know that they have a right to say “No” and be respected. Children who are unaware of the matter of consent are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and, of taking advantage of others.
- Be aware of behaviours that are red flags about a child’s sexual development or experience. These include forceful, excessive or secretive behaviour, or unusual behavioural changes.
- Be aware of what natural, healthy sexual behaviour is before puberty. How parents respond to games like “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” can affect the amount of shame or anger that a child associates with sexual behaviour growing up.
- Statements like “Boys will be boys” or “He hit you because he likes you” excuses violent behaviour and can even cause women to confuse violence with love later in life.**
- Pornography can be harmful to young people and they are increasingly exposed to this through channels such as social media. Be open with them about the pitfalls.
Another strategy for dealing with violence and abuse is to make boys and men part of the solution. The Thari Programme actively includes men and boys in its programmes, allowing them to explore healthy perspectives on masculinity and gender.
We can teach boys six simple principles that will encourage them to avoid violence and abuse: ***
- The importance of consent. There is no excuse for rape or violence and no woman deserves to be violated based on what she is wearing, for example.
- To intervene, or at least report, when they see an assault in progress.
- That hitting others or breaking things is never acceptable.
- That being male does not mean you cannot express your feelings and show vulnerability.
- That girls are their equals and that they deserve the same respect and the same opportunities afforded to boys.
- To challenge their peers when they objectify or denigrate women, and to defend girls from this behaviour.
A persistent myth about sexual abuse is that most survivors are attacked by strangers. In reality nearly 70% of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by partners or family members, and that these are the least reported incidents.*** Thari focuses on providing women in abusive relationships with the support and knowledge to report the abuse, and seek the relevant counselling.
In situations where a person finds someone in their circle who is in an abusive relationship, here are four ways to help them:****
- Listen closely to them, and acknowledge their fears and reservations. Do not judge them if they feel unable to leave the relationship right away.
- Help them to develop a safety plan. This will help them to remain safe when they decide to leave the relationship, and will enable them to plan for the emotional, practical and legal consequences of leaving.
- Encourage them to develop their own lives outside of their families by participating in activities such as education or support groups.
- Encourage them to reach out to people and organisations that can help them to deal with the situation.
Ending violence against women and children is the collective responsibility of all South Africans. Supporting programmes like Thari can help tens of thousands of victims to recover and return to society, and prevent the next generation from repeating the same mistakes.
For more information on the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, or the Thari Programme, visit the Foundation’s website at http://www.cyrilramaphosafoundation.org/, email email@example.com or call 011 592 6560.