Women’s Month Turns into a Time of Mourning

Press Release                                                                                                                                            For Immediate Release

On the 9th of August every year, South Africa commemorates the thousands of fearless women who marched in protest to the Union buildings in 1956. Historically, South Africa has designated the month of August to honouring all women who fought against the Apartheid regime. Over the years this month signifies the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large. Sadly, this month has been far from what it’s supposed to signify – “the fight for freedom by and for women.”

Minister of Women, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane stated that this August 30 women alone have died at the hands of their partners. Following all the violence against women, there has been an outcry over the devastatingly high levels of femicide. It is unclear whether the government really considers this a grave concern due to their long period of silence surrounding the public outcry. Nkoana-Mashabane said that the current violence against women reflected a society where there is a lack of respect, on part of men when it comes to treating women as equals.  Gender activists have asked the State to declare a state of emergency.

The widespread anger started with Meghan Cremer, 30 years old, who went missing on the 3rd of August when she left her place and was later found dumped in a sand mine with a rope around her neck. Following her death social media became active grounds for women to come forward, unite and speak of their experiences regarding gender-based violence. A Facebook group was created “SA Women Fight Back” which currently has 139 855 members. After the murder and rape of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrhwetyana who went missing more than a week ago and was bludgeoned to death with a scale in Claremont’s post office, citizens have called for renewed calls of stricter action to be taken against perpetrators.

Other victims who got a lot of news coverage were Jesse Hess, 19 year old who was killed and raped alongside her grandfather in their home, Leighandre Jegels, 25 year old boxer who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Janika Mallo, 14 years old, who was raped and found with her head bashed in her grandmother’s backyard, Lynette Volschenk, 32 years old, murdered and found with her body dismembered and Ayakha Jiyane, who was 16 years old and hanged from a tree allegedly by her stepfather. Her three younger siblings were also hanged that day.

The first week of September has been nothing but depressing. Thousands and thousands of women and men marched to Parliament on 4th and 5th of September 2019 to protest and raise awareness to government of the severe levels of gender-based violence South Africa has been facing. Activists are no longer tolerating the current state of affairs. The Commissioner for Gender Equality, Mbuyiselo Botha, emphasised that men need to be careful of the language they use around issues of women’s abuse. He stated, “The men must talk to other men, it is the men who will say ‘I will not socialise with you and I will not be part of your sexist jokes’.” This is necessary considering that the burden of gender-based violence has often been placed on the women victims and not the perpetrators. We as the youth of Africa Unite do not tolerate any form of violence, yet alone violence against women and children and believe that men need to be held more accountable for violating the rights of women in South Africa.

As an organization centered on raising awareness in communities on human rights as well as advocating for youth empowerment, our Africa Unite School Club Learners and Youth Human Rights Peer Educators in Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng have been actively taking a stand against the ongoing Gender Based Violence in South Africa. They have launched various Anti-Gender Based Violence Campaigns.  

Moreover, we demand that action is taken beyond President Ramaphosa merely adding his voice to what public outcries have been. We have heard many voices raised on the death penalty however we as the youth believe that is not going to solve the issue. Society needs to be educated from an early age on how to treat women with respect and dignity.

We as a country must remember that this form of violence did not end in August and has been endemic to our society for many years. Starting off the first week of September, we have already witnessed reports of women being violently killed and raped. South Africa is considered to have the highest rate of sexual violence cases in the world. Therefore, we as a youth empowerment and human rights organisation urge our government to take this matter seriously.

Date of release: 11 September 2019

Nthati Lesaoana                                                                                                                                      Phone: 081 333 7665  | Email: nthati@africaunite.org.za


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