Cristianne Wendler, Shout-It-Now, Behavioural Interventions Programme Manager
Johannesburg, 18 August 2021 – Gender-based violence (GBV), in its many forms is not new nor is there any country in the world that does not have to deal with this scourge. It can manifest in physical, sexual, economic or psychological forms with intimate partner violence (IPV) presenting a particularly significant public health problem.
According to UN Women, GBV is a complex phenomenon and refers to harmful acts directed at an individual or a group of individuals based on their gender. Although GBV affects men and women, the term is primarily used to underscore the fact that structural, gender-based power differentials place women and girls at greater risk for multiple forms of violence.
In South Africa, the risk of GBV begins early for many girls and may continue throughout a woman’s life. This is highlighted by a study undertaken by the South African Medical Research Council which shows that about 1 in every 4 women aged 18 – 49 years has experienced IPV. A 2016 community-based study among 3 515 children aged 10 – 17 years revealed that 31.2% of adolescent girls had already experienced physical abuse in their short lifetimes, with 8.4% reporting sexual abuse or rape. We should be fiercely revolting against this phenomenon!
Cristianne Wendler, Shout-It-Now’s Behavioural Interventions Programme Manager, says the country’s statistics have instilled a sense of inevitability around GBV. “I have been told by young women that it is not a matter of if I am raped, but rather when I am raped,” she said. “This is heart breaking and infuriating.”
South African Police statistics also attest to the growing scourge of GBV. In 2019/20 there was an increase in reported GBV, with 53 293 sexual offences registered, at least 42 289 of which were instances of rape. This is a staggering 115 rapes every day. More needs to be done to ensure that adequate protection and access is available to assist females, as made available via Shout-It-Now’s services.
Femicide is also rife in the country, approximately five times higher than the global average. In 2019/20, 2 695 women were murdered, approximately one every three hours.
Wendler says these chilling statistics should really galvanise multi-stakeholder, comprehensive interventions that involve parents, families and communities. “GBV, IPV and the complex social, emotional, physical and developmental consequences they bring for both the survivors and the perpetrators alike, cannot be solved by only one social partner. Nor is there a silver bullet or a one size fits all approach to solving the problem. We also see inter- and trans-generational consequences which, unless we work together to implement cohesive solutions, will remain ever-present.”
To support adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 in a way that is meaningful and accessible, Shout-It-Now, a South African non-profit company, offers free, mobile, youth-friendly medical and behavioural HIV prevention, GBV, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
Shout-It-Now also works with a range of partners in Gauteng and the North West, including government, to create seamless linkages to other services required by young girls and women.
Wendler explains further that a unique feature of the services offered by Shout-It-Now is, “Shout’s team members are recruited from the communities in which we work, so that we can offer culturally appropriate and language sensitive support. Additionally, our staff know if we are to make a difference to the young women we encounter looking for help and advice, we have to change the perceptions and attitudes around gender-based violence, HIV and other issues which we often see manifesting together. We have to normalise discussions around sexual health to make it easy for young girls and women to seek help should they encounter dangerous and unhealthy situations.”
“With young girls and women experiencing GBV and IPV from early on in their lives, we must prioritise them in our interventions. By starting young, and with the right support, we aim to positively impact their life paths and the families they will build. Working at the individual and community levels, our hope is that GBV and IPV are issues that future generations may not have to contend with.” concluded Wendler.
Shout-It-Now can be contacted via its dedicated WhatsApp number +27 10 020 6021, website https://shoutitnow.org/ or the Connect Hub on +27 10 020 6021.