Address delivered by the Deputy President, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Closing Ceremony of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign for No Violence Against Women and Children, Lichtenburg Rugby Stadium, North West, 10 December 2005

Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Cheryl Gillwald,
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Dr Jean Benjamin,
Premier of the North West Province, Edna Molewa
Members of the Executive Council, Mayors and Councillors,
Veterans of the Struggle,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen.

Today is International Human Rights Day and it marks the closure of this year's 16 Days of Activism Campaign for No Violence Against Women and Children. First of all, allow me to thank the provincial government of the North West for organising and hosting this event on behalf of the national government. We also wish to thank the Municipality of Lichtenburg and all the local officials and councillors for their role in the high turn-out we see here today.

Just 16 days ago we kicked off the Campaign at the Katlehong Stadium in Ekurhuleni.

At this ceremony, I had the honour of lighting the Campaign's Torch of Peace. This Torch, which will burn throughout the year in our hearts and in our lives, is a symbol of peace and signifies no violence.

The torch starts this journey today as we will be handing it over to the Minister of Transport, Mr Jeff Radebe.

The Torch of Peace will reflect our wish as South Africans to enjoy peace on our roads over this Festive Season. As many of our people will be on the road travelling to and from their various holiday destinations, the Arrive Alive campaign reminds us to take every precaution to ensure that we reach our homes and holiday destinations safely.

In January, Minister Radebe will hand the Torch of Peace over to the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, to highlight the importance of peace in our schools and to reinforce the values that underpin the Safer Schools project.

When we kicked off this campaign on 25 November we said "16 Days of Activism Campaign is a call to action". Each one of us, as individuals, as members of churches, unions, sports clubs or employees of organisations, need to make our voices heard and our actions must demonstrate the will for peace in our homes, our schools, our workplaces and in our communities.

We, as government, share the responsibility of keeping our communities safe for you - the citizens, but we cannot do it alone. On this 16th day we feel stronger, and as we reflect on our achievements thus far let us also ponder on the challenges that still face us.

The Media Monitoring Project (MMP) has been engaged in a comprehensive assessment of media activity during the campaign.

The MMP tells us that the coverage this year has been more extensive than it was last year, especially on the part of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the national broadcaster.

The first thing to note is that as soon as the campaign started on the 25th, the newspapers, radio and television (TV) increased their coverage of domestic violence stories. With these stories on the front pages and on TV news every day, we may be led to believe that we are swimming against a very strong current.

But it is important to acknowledge the commitment of the media to giving prominence to our events, projects and our messages of peace. For this we can thank our colleagues in Government Communications (GCIS(, government's own communicators and our media partners - Independent Newspapers, SABC (Radio and TV), eTV and MNet, Supersport and many others who have played a role.

We have all worked hard to put the scourge of gender-based violence at the top of the agenda for these 16 days.

At the opening I spoke about mandatory sentences for rape. I said "If you rape you go to jail". The laws of our country are there to protect the people, to give the people access to justice and to punish those who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Women's rights to dignity and equality are enshrined in our legal framework - today all women and men here should commit themselves to defending these rights.

We fought hard for them and we will never surrender them. In this regard, the Department of Justice is reviewing the proposed amendments to the new Sexual Offences Bill and this legislation will come before us for finalisation in Parliament next year.

The notion has been proposed of a National Action Plan for an end to Domestic Violence and Rape. This is to be welcomed, and a joint effort by government and civil society to develop the plan with firm deadlines for action should be encouraged.

The Freedom Charter says "All shall be equal before the law! The rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex". The laws of this country do not favour those with money or power, they do not favour white people or black people, they do not favour women or men and they do not favour politicians or sports stars.

The Freedom Charter requires us to "pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won."

Yes we may have won our democratic rights, but until all in our society show respect for the rule of law and for fellow members of our communities, we cannot be complacent. So today, I want us to recommit to these values, and I want to urge all my colleagues here to do the same.

Government has come in for some criticism during these 16 days and activists have implored us to shift this campaign to the delivery of better services.

  • They want to see the Sexual Offences Act passed.
  • They want to see proper reporting of incidents of Domestic Violence, as promised in the Domestic Violence Act.
  • They want to see male rape identified as just that and not sexual assault.
  • They want to see more publicity for services that we do offer so that people know what is available to help them.
  • They want to see conviction rates drastically improved.
  • They want to see more support groups for victims of gender-based violence.
  • They want to see Community Policing Forums take a more active role in their communities.

These are all fine proposals and should form part of the envisaged Plan of Action that I spoke about earlier.

This year there have been many, many events that the public could take part in - from the opening of shelters in remote rural areas to the Cyber Dialogues in Johannesburg City Council - some 400 events country-wide offered citizens across the urban and rural divide the opportunity to participate in this Campaign.

This year we have tried to emphasise that men and boys have an important role to play in the eradication of woman and child abuse. The men's movement has been mobilising it memberships during the Campaign, culminating in the National Summit on the Role of Men and Boys in Gender Equality hosted by Deputy Minister Dr Jean Benjamin. This is a welcome and encouraging development.

Moreover, the Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SABC which will cement our joint commitment to participating in future 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaigns and to spreading the message further that violence against women dehumanises our whole society - men and women alike. This year we have seen an increased participation of business and labour. Large and small businesses have joined the call to action - whether by promoting the white ribbon at their events, or by placing a white ribbon on their building, or even by wrapping almost their entire buildings in white ribbons - we are grateful as this means their employees are talking and thinking about these issues.

In some instances, partners in this sector have also agreed to review their gender and sexual harassment policies and to ensure safer and violence-free working environments for women.

Many provided support for shelters and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with survivors of violence. Beneficiaries of this generosity have included People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Life Line, Childline, Ikaya Lethemba and many others. To all the many corporate companies providing substantial and ongoing funds for legacy projects, we say a big thank-you. Often your assistance is essential in ensuring support for survivors of abuse.

The National Youth Service Unit (NYSU) is implementing a Mentorship programme aimed at supporting children and young women in vulnerable circumstances. This programme will be implemented in partnership with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Programme, a state-of-the-art, one-to-one Mentoring initiative with caring relationships being established between adults and children/youths.

The Umsobomvu Youth Fund will invest a total budget of R 3 667 132 for the implementation of this Mentorship programme, to be launched on Human Rights Day on 21 March 2006. Ten-thousand children and young women will benefit from this programme in the year 2006/07.

Our Campaign for 2006 needs to be centred around changes in attitudes and behaviour. The awareness-raising work must go on. But the campaign simply has to embrace the constructive criticism and encouragement from the wide range of partners that it has gained over the years, to enable it to return next year with a renewed commitment to effecting real change in the lives of women and children living in fear.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
10 December 2005

 

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