NOVEMBER 25 marks the start of South Africans countrywide commemorating the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign which, according to armed-response giant Fidelity ADT, should serve as rallying call to galvanise efforts in the fight against gender-based violence.
“Police minister Bheki Cele released crime statistics earlier this month which showed that women and children continue to live in fear. Gender-based violence is commonly referred to as South Africa’s second pandemic - an indication of the severity of the problem we still face,” says Charnel Hattingh of Fidelity ADT.
In their response to the crime stats, women’s rights organisation Sonke Gender Justice told journalists that women in South Africa “lived in a perpetual state of fear, and not without reason”.
They quoted World Health Organisation figures which showed that 12.1 in every 100,000 women are victims of femicide in South Africa; this figure is five times worse than the global average.
“Crimes against our women and children should be rooted out, and this 16 Days campaign certainly has value in again focusing our attention on efforts in this regard. We need to support the many wonderful NPOs and NGOs that work in addressing gender-based violence, but over and above that, you and I can also make a difference.
“We can do this by following basic safety tips and making sure we share these with our loved ones, while talking about safe personal habits throughout the year,” says Hattingh.
She recommends discussing and sharing the following tips:
• It is of utmost importance to trust your instincts. If someone or something makes you feel uneasy, avoid the individual and leave the area.
• Make contact with your private security service provider and ask them if they offer a mobile panic alarm service, which could be downloaded to your mobile phone.
• Tell someone where you are going and the time you expect to return. Save to your mobile phone or memorise the details of the person to be contacted in the event of an emergency.
• Be aware of people around you when heading to your vehicle, especially at places such as shopping centres, petrol stations, and the likes.
• If you are driving, the first thing to do once you are inside your vehicle is to ensure that all the doors are locked. Never drive with a handbag or any other valuable items on a seat or in the view of anyone looking into your vehicle from the outside.
There are also safety tips which we should share with our children, to help keep them safe from harm:
• They must always walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets they know and never take short cuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots and never walk with cell phones and iPads in full view.
• If they get picked up at school, they should never leave the premises but always wait inside the school grounds for their lift to arrive.
• They must never get into a stranger’s car; even if the stranger claims that someone they love is hurt and that they have been sent to pick them up.
• Consider using a password system. If the person coming to collect you from school cannot repeat the password you and your child agreed on, they should not get into the car but immediately ask for help.
• If a stranger approaches them, they should not talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem. If someone tries to grab them, they need to fight, kick and shout out that the person is not their mom or dad.
• If your child does encounter any suspicious activity, encourage them to get a good look and memorise their physical details and clothing, as well as the vehicle they are in.
• Make sure your children memorise their full names, address and phone number.
“By exercising these precautions, we believe women and children can develop good safety habits that will assist them in avoiding dangerous situations,” says Hattingh.
The 16 Days of Activism is an annual global campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, International Human Rights Day.
It was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership. It is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.