Why are women and children abused and what can communities do about it? This question was dealt with during a talk in Silvertown last week as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.
The Callas Foundation organised the event on Thursday November 25, the International Day of No Violence against Women and the start of the 16 Days campaign, which runs until Friday December 10 (International Human Rights Day).
The non-profit was established in Bridgetown in September 2018, and it runs a feeding scheme and an after-school care programme as well as counselling services for men, women and children.
About 15 women from the Expanded Public Works Programme were at the talk at the civic centre, along with staff from the City of Cape Town’s social development and early childhood development department.
When social worker Phelisa Mashiyi asked the women what the 16 Days campaign meant to them, most said it was about respecting women.
Women and children were violated all year round, she said, and respect was key to ending the abuse: if you respected someone, you did not hurt them.
Abuse sometimes went unnoticed, but just because it did not make the news did not mean it had not happened, she said, adding that in some cases women were called liars when tried to report abuse.
Communities should work together to end abuse, she said.
“The best resources we have in a community are the members of the community. The community finds solutions and sticks together so that they can stop violence against women and children in their areas. You have the power to change things. Use the resources that you have, and if it doesn’t work for your community, stand up and say so. Tell us what works better for your community.”
Fear as well as a lack of both family support and money were just some reasons why some women struggled to leave abusive partners, she said.
While others could provide support, only the victim could decide when she was ready to leave.
“So even if they don’t leave right now, equip them with the resources that they need so that when they do leave, they know where to go and who to call. For some they just don’t know how to get out. So, even if you feel that you’ve done nothing to help, you have. You’ve provided that woman with hope and resources.”
Abuse could take many forms, she said. Apart from being physical, it could also be verbal, sexual, psychological, and emotional. It was not only defined as having bruises on your body. Some women did not report sexual abuse because they feared not being believed or the justice system failing them, she said.
“Be mindful of what is happening in your home and in your community. Many parents think that their children will never experience abuse, but no one knows that. Yes, we protect our children, we teach them good values and we are strict with them, but these things happen and it is out of our control and it is not your fault. Being raped has nothing to do with what you did or said.”
When Ms Mashiyi asked the women what they thought should be removed from their communities to prevent violence, many said shebeens.
“Not everyone will be happy with that because some will suffer when those things are taken out of the community, but standing up as a unit against these things is better than standing alone,” Ms Mashiyi said.
Ms Mashiyi then asked the women to identify the root causes of violence in their communities.
Abeda Schroeder, from Heideveld, said money trouble was behind much of the domestic violence there.
“The husband works, but he blames the wife for not having money to buy a bread. The next day, he comes home drunk and they argue and he beats her,” she said.
Venecia Payne, from Heideveld, said that some children abused their mothers because they saw their fathers doing it.
Wilhelmina Davids, from Heideveld, said that substance abuse was a huge issue.
“There is a couple who argues every night. At night, you can hear a woman crying and shouting for help,” she said.
Mekylar Heynes, from Heideveld, said that although many people thought it was easy for women to leave their abusers, it was not because they often had no money or support from their families.
Ms Mashiyi said women should look out for one other and make it their business if a friend’s daily routine changed, she had bruises on her body and was acting differently.
“When they start lying, make a lot of excuses not to attend an event, question it. You will be able to pick up when something is not right if the person is close to you. If you go into their own environment and you feel something is off, make it your business. They will thank you later. Ask questions if things don’t add up.”
Contact the Callas Foundation on 071 135 7175.