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Activist calls for readiness against next GBV wave

ALEXANDRA – Gender-based violence's calm before the storm

The quietness on gender-based violence which has hogged the headlines recently has forced a legal entrepreneur to pen her concern.

Yvonne Wakefield, a mother of three children, an optimist, and a feminist is the founder of The Warrior Project, an online portal of information and resources for victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

In a statement, Wakefield said, “We should not be fooled. The quiet does not mean that anything has changed. The issue of gender-based violence is, in the wake of these events, more sensitive than ever and the embers glow just beneath the surface, ready for the next flare-up.” Her thoughts follow a national uprising in August last year against gender-based violence prompted by the rape and brutal murder of Western Cape province student Uyinene Mrwetyana. Wakefield said the incident was proceeded by a spate of highly publicised murders of South African women by their spouses.

“Mrwetyana’s case was the last straw. As news travelled and trauma seeped in, even to those not directly affected, outrage flared and we experienced a unified national conversation. We spoke of the same thing on a national, local, community, family and relationship level. How gender-based violence had become a pervasive social norm.”

She added that the wave of information, discourse and rage, although traumatic then, was a good thing. “It brought the issue to the forefront of conversations at all levels, and it provided and normalised the vocabulary of the issue to many of us. The government was called to account and it responded with promises.

“Other than for the loved ones of those directly affected, the quiet following these events came as a welcome relief to many of us working in this space. It allowed for a careful reflection and processing of the events and their effects, and a consolidation of the unified experience.”

Wakefield said the quietness did not mean anything had changed. “There is more sensitivity to the scourge than ever. We need to see improvements during the quiet times that are, beyond words, and actions that are consistent and sustainable.” She said there was a need to see the government making progress on its promises, changes in attitude at police stations, and the lowering of tolerance levels on gender-based violence in society, communities, schools, families, peer groups and at an individual level.

This, she added should be measured by conversations we have and small steps we take against the scourge. “These should be done in readiness and proportion to the next wave if it does come.”

She urged the nation to take a cue from successes through its critical mass in the fight against HIV and aids’ stigma of the 1990s.

She implored society to adopt the narrative of hope, life and progress to beat the silence, shame and helplessness of the scourge of gender-based violence.

Details: www.thewarriorproject.org.za

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