To commemorate the beginning of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV), we chose complete silence on our social media accounts for 24 hours, calling on 16 important entertainers, influencers and activists to join us in making this statement.
There are 2 reasons behind our decision: the first is that with no online noise, deafening but powerful silence is sometimes the best way to get people to listen; the second is that our silence is symbolic of the silence that is imposed on women and children through abuse that discourages its victims from speaking out. Our message is that progress in the fight against GBV can come only through men and women alike letting their voices be heard, sending a clear message that we have had enough and will do what we can as a financial institution to ensure that money, in particular, is not used to silence women.
Now the silence is over, and the voices of South Africa’s women will be heard. Throughout the next 16 days, we will highlight the courage of those who have overcome GBV.
Violence affecting women and children is one of the most, if not THE most, pressing problems South Africa faces as a nation. According to SaferSpaces, between 25% and 40% of South Africa’s women have experienced abuse at the hands of a partner, and a 2016 Optimus study showed that 40% of young South Africans have experienced some form of abuse in their lifetime.
GBV is such a prolific and common problem in society that sometimes silence seems easier. Perhaps the issue seems too complex, or too unsettling, to talk about or even acknowledge.
Our message this month is that focusing on the struggle to end GBV does not have to be a conversation that is hopeless. We believe that taking positive action is more important than simply contemplating how truly awful this problem is in silence.
That’s why this month and beyond, we are focusing on content that doesn’t simply highlight the problem of GBV but plots a way forward, ways for us to unlearn, learn, grow and overcome cycles of abuse to produce future generations of happier, healthier adults who have no desire to control or hurt others.
Our content will be built around a series of events. We will be hosting a weekly Twitter Spaces session to offer support and advice on issues related to GBV, an exhibition of photography that lends a voice to the stories of South African women who have overcome abuse and, lastly, Run for Her, a virtual run on 11 December to spark not only awareness but also community action against GBV.
Stories of GBV are rooted in unresolved trauma and pain but are not without hope. We are inspired by the stories of survivors who have shown incredible courage not only in overcoming their past traumas but also in using these traumas to help fuel their current success and guide them towards a better future.
We hope our activities this month and going forward serve not to simply highlight a problem but, through accessible solutions and demonstration of the power of actions, big or small, when taken, can ensure that tomorrow is better than today.
Let’s move towards this brighter future, together. #ItCanBe
If you have been a victim of abuse or know someone who is, please reach out to one of these organisations:
Childline South Africa: 0800 055 555
GBV Command Centre: 080 042 8428
Legal Aid: 0800 110 110
LifeLine South Africa: 0861 322 322
National Counselling Line: 0861 322 322
National GBV Helpline: 0800 150 150
South African Depression and Anxiety Group: 080 021 2223