We are a long way from realising a world free of discrimination against women - Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to drive fundamental change in societal attitudes that allow sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy to thrive in the country.
Ramaphosa says eradicating gender-based violence is not only a moral and human rights imperative, but it is key to SA realising its developmental potential.
Writing in his weekly newsletter on Monday and two days before the start of this year's annual 16 Days of Activism campaign, Ramaphosa said despite the groundswell of public support for the campaign and many others like it, “we are still unfortunately a long way from realising a world free of sexism, discrimination and violence against women and girls”.
“Despite our best efforts as the international community, as national governments and as civil society, gender-based violence remains a feature of the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. The reality is that legislative and policy measures instituted by governments cannot alone rid us of this problem,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the campaign affirms the need for all sectors of society to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence.
He said beyond gender-based violence's devastating effects on the health, safety and wellbeing of women and girls, it also has significant social, political and economic impacts.
Ramaphosa cited a 2017 study, which stated that the economic cost of gender-based violence in SA was between R28bn and R42.4bn a year. This included the social services, shelter and health care needed to respond effectively to gender-based violence, it said.
“Individuals and families bear the greatest proportion of costs - from reduced income to replacement of broken property, to transportation to seek care or attend trial,” found the study.
Furthermore, it stated that the productivity of women in abusive relationships is also negatively affected.
“It is clear then that not only is eradicating gender-based violence a moral and human rights imperative, it is also key to us realising our developmental potential as a country,” he said.
Ramaphosa acknowledged the role played by NGOs and other professionals in the fight against gender-based violence, saying during the hard lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, SA witnessed the integral role played by the NGO and community-based sector in providing support to vulnerable women and children.
“They worked with government to ensure that the basic needs of women and children in shelters were met, and worked with the Solidarity Fund to ensure there was adequate personal protective equipment in shelters where they were needed.
“We know all too well that while it is government that adopts policy, it is our NGOs and community workers who are closest to where our people are. They are a barometer of implementation on the ground.
“This country’s women and children, and indeed all the people of South Africa, will forever remain grateful for the work of our robust, activist and principled civil society organisations and workers,” he said.
Meanwhile the interministerial committee on gender-based violence and femicide will launch this year's campaign at a media conference on Tuesday.
Minister in the presidency for women, youth and people with disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who chairs the committee, will lead the media conference which will also provide an update on progress made in implementing the National Strategic Plan, said government communications on Monday.