Women’s Month has been celebrated in South Africa since 1994 in tribute to the more than 20 000 woman marched to the Union Building on 9 August 1956, in protests against the extension of the then Pass Laws to Women.
During August Knysna Executive Mayor, Elrick van Aswegen asks that all acknowledge the power and strength of the women in Greater Knysna.
“The words from the famous resistance song, “Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’Imbokodo” meaning “you strike the women, you strike the rock” sung by those as they marched in 1956 have now come to symbolise the courage and strength of Greater Knysna women, and women across South Africa,” said the Mayor. “It saddens me today to say that some of our men do not celebrate the strength and resilience of our women, but rather use their physical strength to disempower them, especially during these trying times.”
Mayor van Aswegen was referring to the horrific increase in Gender Based Violence during the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown. “When we, as men, should be stepping up to the plate and protecting others, some men are taking their frustrations out on those physically weaker than themselves. This is something that infuriates me.
“I agree with our President’s sentiment that violence against women is a men’s problem. This is not a problem only to be addressed during the month of August, but a sickening problem that deserves our attention 365 days of every year, and we as men should stand together and treat our women with care and respect.”
The Mayor added that the confinement, due to Covid-19, had fostered tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries. “And this is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them,” he said. “It is a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors. It is a sickening truth that even before Covid-19 existed, domestic violence in our country was already one of the greatest human rights violations.
“Covid-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic hardship that we are struggling to rise above. The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity. We must not only survive the Coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of recovery.”
The Mayor acknowledged that Gender Based Violence is a complex issue that required multi-faceted responses and commitment from all stakeholders, including government, civil society and other citizens.
“I call on all men and boys, especially now during Women’s Month, to become part of the solution. We must start by shifting attitudes and behaviours away from the rape culture and the sexism and misogyny inherent in our society. It starts by doing our bit to create an inclusive, safe society for all genders. Bottom line is to stop degrading women, no matter how this is done. Let us stop objectifying women. Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realise their full potential.”
In closing van Aswegen assured the women of Greater Knysna that they do not stand alone, and that for every violent man there are many who will stand up to him. “If you are experiencing violence at home, be it passive or aggressive, I implore you to contact the Gender Based Violence Command Centre 0800 428 428 or the SAPS 10111 and ask for help.
“Let us all stand together in the fight against violence and brutality against women to ensure a peaceful future where all women can feel safe and respected,” concluded the mayor.