The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is an international United Nations-endorsed initiative that takes place annually from 25 November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). The period was designated by the UN General Assembly to raise public awareness on gender-based violence in line with resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999.
The South African Government has run a parallel campaign since 1998. As the 16 Days Activism Campaign matures in the country, it has evolved to include issues relating to violence against children as well. Since 2019, with the establishment of the Ministry in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, the campaign is broadened to also look at issues of violence against the youth, the LGBTQIA+ community and persons with disabilities, in particular women and children with disabilities. The period also allows reflection on violence and abuse experienced by women pushed to the periphery of society – women migrant workers, and illegal citizens, and sex workers, etc.
Other key commemorative days observed annually during this 16-Day period include World Aids Day on 1 December and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.
The 16 Days Activism Campaign continues to generate a heightened level of awareness amongst South Africans on the deleterious effect and impact of gender-based violence and femicide on our society. Over the past two decades, all partners, especially government, working with civil society, have been making concerted efforts in raising awareness about the 16 Days of Activism campaign within a broader approach of 365 days of action to address the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in the country.
2022 Theme and Approach:
Theme: “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!”
Social empowerment is fundamental to women achieving and fully enjoying their human rights. However, women’s ability to do this is hampered by patriarchal practices and negative social norms. Economic empowerment is one of the most powerful routes for women to achieve their potential and advance their rights. It promotes women's ability to reduce household poverty, hunger and food insecurity, as well as reducing the heightened levels of inequalities they face on a daily basis. Women’s economic resilience will enable them to walk away from situations that make them vulnerable to GBVF, and to take control of their own lives and that of their children.
The absence of social and economic power for women creates patterns of violence and poverty which over time become self-perpetuating, making it particularly difficult for the victims to detach themselves from abusive relationships. Thus the programmes embarked on in the 2022/23 fiscal year must be geared towards addressing both social imbalances of power as well as economic marginalisation that women expereince – which are fundamental drivers of GBVF.
- The 16 Days of Activism theme: Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Enhancing Women’s Resource Rights to End GBVF is a further exploration of the linkages between an unequal economy, economic dependency and abuses that women and girls must tolerate and experience as a result of their socio-economic conditions.
- To be able to Collaborate, Connect and Contract is to allow agency to women to come together to improve socio-economic conditions, to challenge status quo economies and supply chains, and to network, grow forces, to improve market participation, and to insert themselves into values chains in all industries and sectors.
- The Cabinet-approved tagline is: Enough Is Enough. The behavioural change campaign requires a multifaceted approach over a long-term period. A ten or twenty year (practically this will be a five-year programme to link to the government calendar or administration) phased communication programme anchored on the prevention pillar of the GBVF national strategic framework is proposed.
Messages on GBVF:
- We must all take concrete actions to ensure safer families and safer communities.
- We must not turn a blind eye to the cries of help from the most vulnerable in our midst. The culture of bystanderism must stop. We must report all cases of assault, abuse and harassment.
- We must stop the normalisation of harassment of women
- It is the responsibility of all South Africans to end the culture of silence around gender-based violence and report perpetrators to the police.
- All of us, whether in our communities or in our homes must do all we can to promote and protect the rights of women and children.
- The National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide requires all of civil society to pull together in realising the social compact.
- We want a society free from any sort of violence targeted at women and young girls, or the LGBTIQIA+ Community.
- Women must be economically empowered, to decrease their vulnerability to gender based violence.
- Ending GBVF is everyone’s responsibility. Take action NOW!
- Collective Responsibility, collective action. It IS your problem
- There is a need to have realistic collaboration between the government, all sectors of society and society to end Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
- Government, Civil Society and the society should take collective responsibility in ending Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
Objectives of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF:
- To see South Africa free from gender based violence directed at women, youth, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ persons.
- To feel safe and free from fear of crime.
- To be safe at home, at school, at work, and enjoy an active community life free from all forms of fear.
- To see women walk freely in the streets and children playing safely outside.
- To see the president, including other government heads, demonstrate support for the presidential summit on gender based-violence.
- To genuinely realise expedited policy implementation processes sooner rather than later.
- To have realistic collaboration between the government, all sectors of society and society.
- To see a growth in media partnership and coverage, and to be able to lead dialogue on trending topic/s on radio/TV and social media on GBVF
- To call on all the different sectors of society to commit to implementing the policy change recommendations of the NSP on GBVF
To achieve the vision, South Africa is focussing efforts on bringing about specific changes around the following six key pillars:
- Accountability, Coordination and Leadership: This pillar is about firm leadership and strengthened accountability that responds to the GBVF crisis in a multi-sectoral, and institutionally coherent and resourced way
- Prevention and Rebuilding Social Cohesion: This pillar focuses on proactiveness in stopping Violence before it happens; addressing systemic and structural drivers through the roll-out of effective prevention and healing interventions
- Efficient and Sensitive Criminal Justice: This pillar is about ensuring that laws, policies and frameworks align with addressing GBVF substantively at all levels
- Adequate Response Care, Support and Healing: This pillar is centred on access to services and elimination of secondary victimisation
- Building Economic Power: This pillar is about addressing women’s unequal economic and social position, through access to government and private sector procurement, employment, housing, access to land, financial resources and income other generating initiatives;
- Better Information Management to Inform Action: This pillar is centred on multi-disciplinary, research and integrated information systems that are nationally coordinated and decentralised
- The theme: “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!” seeks to expose society’s unequal ownership of the economy, increasing women’s susceptibility to abuse.
- Building Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide seeks to address barriers women face in accessing the economy through providing platforms for women to connect and contract.
- The economic empowerment of women remains a key priority of government, as it is considered a central tenet to ensuring a more equal society for all.
Violence Against Children:
- We must all ensure that children are empowered and vocal enough to fight the scourge of GBVF.
- Focusing on Response, Care, Support and Healing, the swift implementation of Pillar 4 depends largely on collaboration with government, stakeholders, especially, the work of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
- The Department of Social Development is the custodian of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, which promotes children’s rights and protection from violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation such as commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, exploitation, and harmful traditional practices.
- Everyone must play a role in ensuring safe spaces for children
- Do not ignore the voices of children in all decision making spheres