As part of the #16DaysOfActivism campaign, CIVICUS speaks with Amanda Nomnqa about civil society efforts to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa.
Amanda is the founder of SheIsBrave, a South African civil society organisation that provides mentorship and empowers young girls and women to gain independence and overcome GBV.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.
How big a problem is GBV South Africa?
GBV is the worst pandemic South Africa continues to face. The country exhibits very high rates of GBV that affect not only women but also children and LGBTQI+ people. The social, political and economic situation so many of them live in exposes them to GBV. This violence has robbed many of their lives, freedom, dignity and more. It is a human rights violation that has a huge impact on the social and development progression of survivors.
The criminal justice system doesn’t support victims and survivors. The national police systematically fails to help them: it doesn’t channel enough resources to help victims, and the available resources are misused due to lack of expertise in using them. Analysing DNA takes them too long and many police officers don’t know how to use a rape kit properly. All this perpetuates GBV and makes the fight against it even more difficult. And there is no political will to implement measures and policies to tackle the problem.
What work does your organisation do?
SheIsBrave is an organisation led by womxn and young people founded and registered in 2018, seeking to empower girls and young women by providing formal and non-formal skills so they can successfully compete in the job market and become independent. Most GBV victims become hopeless and we want to make sure they still feel valuable, can acquire skills and can use them to improve their lives. We want them to have access to socio-economic opportunities so they can overcome situations of GBV and escape their damaging consequences.
We also support survivors by helping them get counselling. Getting professional help is very important for mental wellbeing so we want to provide that kind of help.
We also have programmes for young girls and children to teach them about GBV. We provide activities for them to work on their talents and allow them a space to express themselves. Our aim is to show them that certain situations are not normal and are wrong, and empower them so they are confident enough to speak up if they are facing such situations. We also try to equip them so they can carry on the same kind of advocacy work in the future.
We also mobilise in protest to make noise and draw attention to the scourge of GBV in our communities so that those in power finally do something about it.
What challenges do you face?
Our main challenge is the lack of financial and material resources to work with our target communities. Lack of funding has limited the scope of our work because we are forced to focus mostly on zero-budget activities. We depend on fundraising and sometimes have to contribute funds from our own pockets.
There aren’t enough funds in place to support civil society in South Africa, and most of what’s available doesn’t reach the organisations doing the work due to mismanagement and corruption. During the pandemic we saw a rise in GBV cases but the government failed to provide enough funding for shelters, medical help and legal aid to victims and survivors. Lack of government funding affected most organisations that provide support to victims. Unfortunately, this is what most organisations including ours are still going through. Organisational growth has really been limited as a result.
What will you be doing for the 16 Days of Activism campaign?
This year we will be working on the ground. We are hosting public meetings with activists working on the same issues as us. We want to bring awareness about GBV in general and femicide in particular. SheIsBrave is based in a community that considered one of the top three biggest hotspots for GBV in South Africa. So we are taking advantage of this opportunity to share information among community members on how people experiencing abuse can report cases, seek medical attention and access shelters.
We hope that as a result more people will know what to do if they need help. We want them to know that help is available and they should never shy away from reaching out.
We also hope our work will inspire other organisations working on these issues to reach out so we can collaborate in the future. If we speak in one voice, we will be more consistent and more powerful and we stand a better chance of making the government and other stakeholders see that they must urgently address the problem.
We are aware that on this date many other organisations are mobilising to push the government to enact better laws and implement better policies to address GBV and we hope this year our voices will be heard. We want to live in an environment that respects women and recognises our human rights. Our government should commit to helping us in our struggle.