Gender Equality and Global Peace: Two Fronts of the Same Battle

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Persistent global conflicts and unaddressed gender-based violence, especially in South Africa, underscore the ongoing battle for peace and gender equality. Despite initiatives like the 16 Days of Activism, societal barriers hinder advancement. SVAI CEO Tiekie Barnard advocates for regular action to address these problems and stresses the need for personal and collective commitment to advancing equality and peace.

Across the globe, the devastation and heartache are relentless, and no sign of ever ending   — from the Russia and Ukraine war to the unrelenting tensions between Israel and Hamas. There are so many global conflicts that continues to displace so many innocent people. Closer to home, in the resplendent heart of Africa, over 35 non-international armed conflicts in nations like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia continue to inflict suffering on countless souls.

How did we come to this juncture? Why does humanity, with all its promise, plunge deeper into discord? As the echoes of conflicts reverberate, one must ponder: is this truly the legacy intended by our creator? Whatever happened to the age-old wisdom of treating others as we wish to be treated ourselves? Are we, as a species, allowing our insatiable lust for power and wealth to overshadow our innate sense of compassion?

As we commemorate another 16 Days of Activism, I find myself questioning the tangible progress we’ve made since its previous iteration. While dialogues surrounding Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Gender Equality have undoubtedly intensified, the grim statistics remain unchanged. It’s a harrowing fact that nothing has changes that one in three women will experience GBV in their lifetime. Moreover, South Africa’s femicide rates are alarmingly disproportionate, with six times as many females killed by intimate partners compared to the global average.

Shockingly, gender equality remains a contested subject. Just recently, a lawyer confided in me his belief that the focus on gender equality was “a bit much”. Until we shift such ingrained mindsets, our efforts will remain stagnant, and the 16 Days of Activism will become an empty ritual. The change starts with each one of us. Have you extended a hand of kindness to someone today?

Businesses and leaders need to champion the principles of the 16 Days of Activism, not just annually, but every single day, actively combating the pervasive effects of GBV in our societies and workplaces. Inaction is no longer an option. For the sake of our children’s future, it’s imperative that we recognise and rectify our unconscious biases, shake off our complacency, and be catalysts for change wherever we are. Witnessing any form of inhumane treatment demands our intervention; silence is complicity – we must speak out and act.

Tiekie Barnard
Founder and CEO
Shift Impact Africa