Vigil against violence

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Emotions ran high at a vigil held in Athlone last week for murdered women and children in South Africa.

About 800 people who filled the field opposite the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Klipfontein Road, on Thursday evening, lit candles and prayed for the protection of women and children.

This follows a wave of femicide during Women’s Month.

Among the victims are Uyinene Mrwetyana, Lynette Volschenk, Janika Mello, Denushe Witbooi, Sadiqah Newman, Meghan Cremer, Leighandre Jegels, and Jesse Hess.

One of the speakers at the vigil, Lynn Hill, said she had been raped at the age of 15 by a member of her church. Her face had been so badly beaten she was no longer recognisable.

She challenged women to become the “best versions” of themselves.

“You were never broken; we need to stop telling people this. You were born worthy, and whole and priceless,” she said.

Bridgette Jongbloed said women were warriors, strong and courageous.

“Perhaps we have been hurt in the past, but we are women of strength, and we will be victorious and overcome this. Don’t be an object to anybody. You are loved just the way you are. We as women must teach our younger women and look after each other and mentor each other.”

Preston Jongbloed, who organised the vigil, said it was necessary to unite everyone to remind them of their strength and power to overcome the violent crime circling South Africa.

“We want to give people the assurance that they don’t need to live in fear. As a man, I want to say that I hear you women, I stand for your movement and I understand the cry of women. Women are fighting for survival and have a cry right now for safety and us as men need to be that for them.”

Caroline Peters, a rape survivor and gender activist, said communities should support each other to stop crime against women and children.

“We need all of this, all of the events are important. We need to understand how we need to overcome this and how we can unite to do this. We must also focus on our language. It is not our young women it is the young women we do not own them. We want to tell the young women that they are enough. Mothers need to be educated and raise awareness. We can’t just preach we need to act.”

Pastor Jerome Samuels read aloud and the men repeated after him: “Not in my name will women and children be kidnapped, abused, raped, and murdered. I refuse to be a spectator. I decree and declare that I as a man will stand in the gap and be a watchman upon the war.

“How dark does it have to become for us men to be the light? Men, it is time to rise and speak up. The past few weeks have not been easy. Something is wrong; we cannot continue to say that it is okay. The same men that we want to be sent to jail for life terms for rapes and murders is the same men that are raping and killing in the prisons. That is not the solution, it is men and women from our communities.”

In an address to the nation last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa, said the national register of sex offenders had to be overhauled.

“I will urge Parliament to amend legislation so that the National Register of Sexual Offenders is made public. A life sentence must mean a man who perpetrates violence against women must be in prison for life. It is men who rape and kill women. There is an obligation on men in our country to end these violent crimes against women and children,” he said.