When Will We Ever Learn?

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Yet another call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls is here with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), and the global theme for this year is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.Black map of Africa. Vector Illustration

16 Days of Activism is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and runs until 10 December (Human Rights Day). It was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 (31 years ago) and as I am writing this today, we have not seen any global reduction of these GBV figures. Sadly, they have increased.

Violence has never been, and never will be the answer. However, victimisation persists as women continue to be treated as second-class citizens. What will it take to end this?

Part of the reason for the lack of progress is lack of accountability and incompetent justice systems – and as a result victims are shamed into silence. And so, the behavior continues.

Imagine how things will change if every single abuser and perpetrator is exposed, and if he is a trusted member of the community; will the people still listen to him preach on a Sunday? Will his staff still respect him? Will he still be considered for that promotion? And will he blame alcohol and work pressure for his actions? If they are permitted to do so, abusers can live a lie their entire lives.

As a society, we need a complete shift in how we respond to GBVF, and to stop protecting perpetrators and abusers. Let them be exposed and deal with the consequences – including rehabilitation – to change their behavior.

As a society, and as a human race, we need to be aware that as long as we don’t prioritise accountability and justice, we are protecting perpetrators and abusers. We must speak up and share what is not acceptable behaviour. As the late Ban Ki-Moon said, “Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”  

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the 2nd Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide, held on 1 and 2 November in South Africa pointed out that we all know in almost all  cases it is men who are the abusers; and he called on men to stop the GBVF. It was once again obvious that most of the attendees were women and that the very audience he was addressing – men, and especially leadership from the provinces, the municipalities, as well as the private sector were conspicuous in their absence.

It is important to also acknowledge the importance of including rights of gender nonconforming persons and other marginalized groups in this fight as well and leave no person behind in the fight for a safe and equal society. 


When will we learn that GBV is real? We cannot ignore it as it affects every one of us. If not directly in our homes, consider how it is directly affecting our economy. If there is no Gender Equality (SDG5), there will never be Equality (SDG10). Our leaders need to learn that you cannot continue to ignore or devalue resources by not providing equal opportunities for all people in your value chain. We need to address these difficult and uncomfortable topics, as that will benefit our organisational reputation and bottom-line results in the long term. Leadership needs to take GBV and Gender Equality in the workplace seriously and address it at the required level of importance.

As a collective, we owe it to ourselves, our children, our communities, the entire human race to eradicate GBVF as it affects every single one of us. Let’s break the silence. #ItsNotOk

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