UFH UNESCO Oliver Tambo Chair of Human Rights shines spotlight on GBV this Women's Month

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The UNESCO ‘Oliver Tambo’ Chair of Human Rights (OTCHR) started Women’s Month (August) with a hybrid seminar themed: Gender Based Violence Against Women and Girls in the Eastern Cape Province.

The overall goal of the seminar held on the 1st o August was to facilitate deepened knowledge of GBV experiences and remedies in the Eastern Cape through facilitated exchanges as well as to engage on ways to permanently eradicate GBV in our societies.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Dr Eileen Carter, South African Human Rights Commission Manager for the Eastern Cape;
  • Dr Lesley Ann Foster, Director of Masimanyane Women's Rights International;
  • Hon. Bukiwe Fanta, Chairperson of the Multi-Party Women's Caucus Standing Committee in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature;
  • Ms Siphokazi Mbalo, Law Student & SRC Transformation and Gender Officer and;
  • Ms Makwena Modimola, Curriculum Development and Delivery Manager at the OR Tambo School of Leadership

The programme was directed by Dr Sandra Makwembere, a Senior Lecturer at Walter Sisulu University.

Welcoming participants, Senior Researcher and Acting Head of the UNESCO ‘Oliver Tambo’ Chair of Human Rights, Dr Siyabulela Fobosi outlined the rationale of the seminar as well as touched on the importance of having such an event. “This is an important engagement and we hope that through such an engagement we will be able to have an opportunity to discuss a number of issues following the violence of some of the students in the University such as Nosicelo Mtebeni.”

Setting the tone of the seminar and referring to some of the gruesome GBV attacks in the Eastern Cape, Law Faculty lecturer Dr Bellita Chitsamatanga said when she was asked to set the tone of the seminar, what immediately came to mind was that South Africa as a country is at war with itself.

“What has the society come to? As we do this hybrid seminar today, we will speak of human rights and ubuntu, where have all those gone too? I always say South Africa is known for having impressive legislations and programs that are put in place, but where is the implementation of it all?”

In her presentation, Dr Foster noted that our communities are not doing enough to address the problem. “We have been informed by the Minister of Police repeatedly that GVB is highest in the Eastern Cape. There are however some cases that are not reported and never make their way into our formal systems which means we clearly have a lot of work to do in assuring that victims speak out.”

According to Dr Carter, while gender-based violence continues to be at its peak in the Province and more cases are being reported at the start of Women’s month, other forms of violence such as online gender-based violence such as cyber-harassment, cyberbullying, hate speech, cyber-stalking, non-consensual pornography, trolling, and doxing against women and girls is increasing by the day.

“39% of girls across major cities in Africa are very concerned about their safety online. It appears, therefore, that women are not only subjected to physical violence or abuse but they are victimized on social networks too,” said Dr Carter.

Hon. Fanta problematized gender-based violence and noted that government plans to implement policies to end it. She referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of GBV as a second pandemic.

Ms Mbalo made reference to some of the causes of gender-based violence and noted the following - social norms (which may be cultural or religious), low levels of women's empowerment, lack of social support, and socio-economic inequality, and substance abuse. As the last speaker, Ms Modimola highlighted the need to strengthen policies to address this pandemic.

In concluding the seminar, various recommendations were tabled in order to eradicate GVB in all corners of the Eastern Cape. This will be done through multi-stakeholder interaction, engaging with traditional leaders to play a leading role in addressing GBV in the communities.