A Powerful Partnership

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Prof Corné Davis of the University of Johannesburg shares insights into the planning and outcomes from the recently published research on gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa

A Powerful Partnership

The much-anticipated research report titled ‘The costly impact of GBV was launched at the JSE on 11 August 2022. The event was hosted by the JSE and Shared Value Africa Initiative, supported by KPMG South Africa.

In 2020, Prof Corné Davis from the Department of Strategic Communication at the University of Johannesburg joined forces with Tiekie Barnard from the Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) and their GBVF #ITSNOTOK movement to engage with two key stakeholder groups, private sector leaders and employees, who had not previously been included in GBV research.

Together they developed six research themes, of which the first focused on conversations held with CEOs and directors of 73 private sector organisations in South Africa to determine:

  1. their awareness of GBV and its prevalence in South Africa,
  2. their views on where the topic of GBV should be placed within the business framework,
  3. their thoughts about what employees expect their employers to do about GBV as an issue that affects employees, and
  4. what their strategy would be, given the calls on the private sector to address GBV made in the NSP.

A second stream in this research project was a survey among employees across sectors in South Africa to assess:

  • General awareness of GBV and the prevalence of its various forms,
  • Opinions about the drivers of GBV in South Africa, and
  • Recommendations on how GBV should be addressed by private sector organisations in South Africa.

The key findings in the study noted that while business leaders acknowledged that GBV is a major problem in South Africa, few were aware of the exact statistics and its impact on employees in the private sector. It also showed that the need for addressing GBV from multiple levels was generally acknowledged, including its inclusion in governance and strategic communication. The approach in this study was not only to determine the views and opinions of leaders in private sector organisations, but also to inform and share important information on GBV. The willingness to engage with this very challenging topic, demonstrated that progress has been made and that platforms for engagement have been created successfully.

The survey among employees in South Africa shed further light on the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration and for the inclusion of the private sector and employees in research and intervention. To date, most GBV research has been conducted from a public health perspective and has been informed by the work done by various NGOs. While findings and data on GBV is available on multiple websites the information that reaches the public in South Africa is typically contained in news reports on femicide, child rape and intimate partner violence. The dissemination of information such as where victims’ emergency calls are coming from, the number of calls received and what support services are available to victims and perpetrators needs be accessible on far more platforms. Multiple participants reiterated that GBV education needs to start in primary schools if we want to break the generational cycle of abuse that has been perpetuated over many decades.

The health economics section of the research showed that GBV cost the South African economy as much as R36 billion in 2019, based on the analysis of secondary data obtained from sources such as the World Bank and World Health Organisation. Prof Koustuv Dalal, who has been ranked as the number one health economist globally, conducted this section of the research. A more accurate cost estimation for GBV in South Africa i, based on primary research conducted among stakeholders across South Africa that is currently under way and will be included in the second phase of the research.

The Shared Value Africa Initiative has co-conceptualised this research with UJ from the outset and, by bringing together the partnership with University of Mid Sweden and KPMG South Africa, this project clearly demonstrates the power of the collective and what can be done when stakeholders collaborate.

Business Leaders

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Tiekie Barnard, CEO, SVAI;  Prof. Koustuv Dalal, Senior Health Economist & Public Health Expert, Mid Sweden University; Prof. Corné Davis, senior lecturer in Strategic Communication, University of Johannesburg; Dr. Anesu Kuhudzai, Statistical and Data Science Consultant, University of Johannesburg