Address Delivered by the Deputy President, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the "365 Days of Action to End Violence against Women and Children" event at the Kopanong Hotel, Johannesburg, 3 May 2006

Deputy Minister of Provincial and Local Government, Nomatyala Hangana;
The UNDP Resident Representative, Scholastica Kimaryo;
Distinguished guests and friends, all of whom are here today because of your commitment to ending violence against women and children;
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to share this moment with you. I wish to express the Presidency's and Government's sincere appreciation to the organisers of this important event for inviting us to share with you an emerging approach to Government's programme focused on violence against women, and to raise awareness on the issues of abuse for the entire 365 days of the year.

During the closing of the 16 Days of Activism last year we said that "the 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 places of work and in our communities."

We further highlighted the fact that the Campaign for 2006 needs to be centred around changes in attitudes and behaviour. We said that the work of raising awareness must go on to enable it to return with a renewed commitment to effecting real change in the lives of women and children living in fear".

It therefore gives me pleasure to be here with you tonight when you meet to deliberate around practical steps that need to be taken in ensuring that the commitments we made last year become a reality.

It is also crucial that this conference take place in 2006, which marks the 50th Anniversary of the Women's March when 50 000 courageous women marched to the Union Buildings, bringing to a regime which knew neither justice nor democracy, their vision of hope, development and peace. It showed their bravery and their commitment to changing; fundamentally, their circumstances in a system that denied them their basic human rights and of course their rights as women.

Also important is the fact this year South Africa also celebrates the 10th anniversary since the adoption of the first democratic Constitution, which is our guide in our efforts to reach a truly democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.

You will know that South Africa is committed to ensuring a better life for all, free from violence, especially against women and children. Government is fully aware of the need to ensure the protection of the rights to equality, human dignity, privacy and freedom, as well as security of each person in this country as mandated by our constitution. The commitment is also informed by the obligations South Africa has in terms of international instruments for human rights such as the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

Violence against women and children is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace as stipulated in our Constitution and enshrined in the Bill of Rights. It violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women and children, of their basic human rights and freedoms.

That is why South Africa has over the last 12 years prioritised the fight against violence directed at women and children and treated it as a serious crime and violation of human rights. Since 1998, the 16 Days Campaign has succeeded in placing the violence against women and children firmly on the national agenda. The campaign has managed to bring on board the media, sporting sector, men's groups, private sector, non-governmental organisations, faith based organisations and other stakeholders on the quest to end violence against women and children.

The challenge is to extend this campaign beyond the 16 day period to a 365 day programme to end violence against women and children, as an enhancement of the government gender based violence programme.

The increase of reports and incidents of violence against women and children must stop! What we know is that each one of these cases is one too many. There is an urgent need for all of us to address this critical problem facing our nation together. It is a scourge that makes it difficult for us to enjoy the gains we make in other sectors as all violent acts have a serious impact on the family, the community and the nation as a whole.

For several years now, South Africans from all walks of life have joined hands in the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign that has served to raise a high level of awareness about the many faces of gender violence and the multiple responses needed to end this scourge.

We cannot achieve this through Government actions alone, or through the campaigns in isolation. Campaigns must be accompanied by practical steps and actions which must be taken by all sectors of our society in partnership with each other. It is only through a strong partnership between Government, civil society, business, labour and all sectors of our communities that we can address this issue successfully!

In my closing speech of the 2005 16 Days campaign, I pledged Government support for a comprehensive and properly coordinated plan to end gender violence; a campaign in which all sectors of society hold each other accountable for what needs to be done.

I emphasise again today, that while Government has a critical role it cannot eradicate this problem on its own. Issues of violence against women and children also occur within the private domain. Government can facilitate but it is within families and communities that remedies must emerge and be implemented.

The online and face-to-face dialogues facilitated by the Government Communications (GCIS) and civil society partners in all nine provinces has resulted in a "check-list for change" that has been widely circulated, including to all Government departments.

The Department of Provincial and Local Government is the lead department for the Sixteen Days campaign, and will lead Government's involvement to ensure an integrated approach and ensure that this campaign is transformed to a 365 Days Campaign.

We also believe this will ensure that this struggle must take root at all spheres of government and, all government departments and most crucially must take root at a local government level as a matter of urgency. It is for that reason that since the inception of democracy in our country in 1994, South Africa has put in place legislation to protect women and children against violence and ensure that the rights and needs of victims of crime and violence are effectively addressed, allow me to reflect on some of the interventions:

Government has prioritised combating crimes against women, such as domestic violence, rape, assault and child abuse by introducing programmes through the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster Departments (JCPS) which include an Anti-Rape Strategy, an interdepartmental Domestic Violence Programme, and a Victim Empowerment programme.

The Victim Empowerment programme is now operational at 307 police stations, and over thirty thousand police officers have been trained.

Sexual Offences Courts, as well as Family Courts dealing with cases of maintenance, children and domestic violence have been established, in addition to 62 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigative Units within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

A Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit have also been established within the National Prosecuting Authority. In addition the Thuthuzela Centres have been established in a number of provinces to provide one-stop services to those who have been subjected to gender based violence so that they can access speedy and effective help.

Currently, 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 this year.

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

All the programmes and pieces of legislation that we have implemented are geared towards ensuring that we decrease significantly the numbers of women and children who experience rape, sexual assault, physical, verbal, financial and emotional abuse (and often a combination of all these). Many women and children are murdered, too.

I have been informed that a working document will be drawn up bringing together all available plans and suggestions for actions leading up to the 2006 16 Days campaign, as well as in the medium to longer term. It is important that this document be fully debated by this conference to ensure ownership of the strategies proposed.

Such a document must ensure that:

· We generate increased awareness amongst all citizens about violence directed at women and children, how it manifests itself in our society and the negative impact it has on the development of these vulnerable groups;
· We profile the way in which Departments are addressing this scourge in a holistic and integrated manner; and
· We demonstrate the Government's commitment towards the prevention and eradication of all forms of violence against women and children.

Working groups should propose inputs to a Declaration to be adopted by all of us at the closing ceremony on Friday and we must emerge with a concrete action plan. A critical component of the conference will be to reach agreement on sub-committees and a coordinating structure to ensure effective implementation strategies.

I am aware that, in the short space of time available, we may not have reached everyone we need to in these preparations. This campaign will mean nothing unless it touches the lives of all South Africans, especially women and men in the most remote parts of our country. Therefore the document must be shared with all throughout the national and provincial machineries for Children, Gender and Persons with Disabilities.

In addition, I am asking each one of you here today to see yourselves as ambassadors for this cause of fighting against violence directed to women and children.

I hope that the deliberations held here over the next few days will be multiplied many times over at provincial and local level; that the draft plan will be taken, owned, appropriated, adapted and implemented in homes, schools and communities around the country, every day of the year.

In doing so, South Africa will become one of the first countries in the region and across the globe to turn the 16 Days campaign, now in its eighth year, into a 365 day campaign to respect the rights of women and children.

We owe it to the courageous women who marched to the Union Buildings fifty years ago to make it happen! We owe it to the memory of such stalwarts as Ma Ellen Kuzwayo who reminded us constantly that their mission had not yet been accomplished to make it happen.

We owe it to those who crafted the Constitution, including the women who criss-crossed this nation getting inputs for a Women's Charter to make it happen.

We owe it to the young women and children of today and tomorrow to make it happen. The Age of Hope that the President spoke of in his State of the Nation address depends on our making it happen.

I am confident that we can make it happen. I wish you all the very best in your deliberations.

Malibongwe Igama lamakhosikazi!

Issued by: The Presidency
4 May 2006

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