To mark the global 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, a women’s advocacy group launched a national “Stop Gender-Based Violence (GBV)” campaign on Sunday November 14. The campaign was launched at Moravian Hill Chapel, in Zonnebloem, Cape Town.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign, which runs from November 25 (declared by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until December 10 (International Human Rights Day) has “Orange the world: End violence against women now!” as its theme this year.
The colour orange represents a brighter future, free from violence against women and girls, as a unifying theme running through all the global activities of the United Nations’ UNiTE Campaign.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign was started by activists at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, held by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University in New Jersey in America in 1991and this year marks its 30th anniversary.
In response to the call, the Anti Gender-based Violence Resource Group has been working hard to spread awareness about hate crimes against women in the congregation.
They have therefore made it their mission to spread awareness, get more resources, and educate people about patriarchy and violations of women’s rights.
The group was founded by four women who are actively involved with the Moravian Theological Centre. Former Moravian Church in South Africa president, Dr Angeline Swart, 75, and registered social worker, Elanor Slamat, 57, retired community nurse, Lettice Joemath, 70, and entrepreneur, Rozan Newfeldt, 62, initially launched this campaign in June 2020, during lockdown.
Ms Swart said they interviewed women from the church community and what they found was shocking. “We realised that lockdown had intensified sexual violence, and this could have huge implications for the future if it is not addressed. At that point, we called Ms Slamat, the social worker,” she said.
It was a serious concern to them and they wanted to do something.
Ms Joemath had decided that by launching their campaign in conjunction with the 16 Day of Activism campaign, the group would be able to create a safe space and place for all families who experience violence.
Initially, the group consisted of three women and two friends. The number of participants grew to 15 women and men, with four women acting as co-ordinators.
A series of “Shadow Conversations” was started where they unpacked why victims remain in abusive relationships and whether violent men can be taught not to be violent.
They recognised that the church and religion are not aligned and viewed this as a social construct of patriarchy.
According to Jerome Slamat from the church, gender-based violence is an ancient sin and Christians need to acknowledge this as a sin.
“At times, survivors, bystanders, perpetrators, and instigators all sit in the same church, and we need to come forward to foster change. I am concerned about this issue within the church, we need to identify the troublemakers and find a way to root it out”, Mr Slamat expressed with passion.
In an effort to end violence against women and children, the group decided to include the young people of the Moravian Theological Seminary. As a way of representing the church’s focus on love above all, these students created a pledge to combat this type of violence.
This group believes that by forming this campaign, they will be catalysts for change of this scourge in society.