Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Charmaine Soobramoney (EOHO co-founder) shares her experience and perspective on GBV www.charmainesoobramoney.com
Last Sunday morning this tweet came through my feed:
@jodakgosii tweeted: “GBV is the most pervasive form of human rights violations and prevents women and girls from reaching their full potential. It is an obstacle to women living dignified lives, free from fear. What has the government done about it? They lied and told us that all accused sexual offenders would not be granted bail. Oh and that useless 16 days of activism thing they did last year.”
On reading this tweet and the murder of 20-year-old Wits student Asithandile Zozo, I was transported back in time to my 19-year-old self. Thirty years ago, I recalled attending many law lectures with bruised ribs. I was committed to hiding both my physical and emotional pain, so despite the pain, I continued to hug my friends and fellow students. In this process, I developed such a high pain threshold that decades later when I fell and broke my wrist, playing indoor soccer, I self-diagnosed the injury as a sprain and only sought medical attention days later. This experience affirms the power of the mind and the sheer will and strength of humanity to achieve the “impossible” with intention, commitment, and action.
I eventually plucked up the courage to end the abusive relationship. On expressing my intention to leave, in addition to being beaten, two bullets were fired into my body. The one bullet knocked the wind out of me by penetrating my lungs and narrowly missed my heart. As a survivor of gender-based violence, I understand the emotional and physical pain, fear, anger, and embarrassment associated with being subjected to this abuse. So, my point is I am lucky to be around and I should use my voice more. The reality is most women who are still around have mastered the art of masking their pain and suffering to their detriment and have not worked through their grief.
Through my journey, I have learnt happiness is a state of mind, and it is a choice I make daily.
The same Sunday afternoon I am now enjoying diverse conversations in the virtual - Number 43 COVID-19 journey book launch hosted by my friend Elias Masilela and his family. The book captures the Masilela family’s COVID-19 experience during the lockdown and can be downloaded here: https://number43trelawneypark.org/
The attendees ranged from political and business leaders to children and included my EOHO partners Melissa from the United Kingdom and Kubeshni another Johannesburger. I loved the inclusivity that reigned, everyone was given an opportunity to bring their voices into the room. The proud Africans in Africa, across the world and other nationalities shared their COVID-19 experiences.
Three young women Tamia Arendse-Attoubou, Ntuntu Angel Masilela, and Uviwe Masilela courageously brought their voices into the room to highlight the plight of violence against women and children and the need for radical change and commitment. 21-year-old Tamia informed the gathering that in August 2020 (Sunday was the 23rd), twenty-one women lost their lives. She urged the political leaders to follow through on the promise of instituting a publicly available paedophile register.
14-year-old Uviwe Masilela called for individual commitment and a collective active stance against gender-based violence-GBV. As I connected with Tamia, Ntuntu and Uviwe’s call for the safety and protection of women and children, it dawned on me that 30 years on, the attack on women and children has only gotten worse and the associated trauma has a far greater reach and impact. At that moment I realised that the EOHO mandate only partially addressed the challenges faced by women. In addition to the emotional personal and business growth we provide, we also offer a reasonably priced security App in partnership with the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA). This provides immediate security response wherever you. www.eoho.info
In my quest to making the world a kinder place, I regularly engage with various individuals and organisations to get insights on their successes and challenges and how best we collectively drive the respect, equality, and the safety and protection mandate for women.
Recently, Hilary Leong, Chairperson for the Awareness of Child Trafficking Africa (ACT) shared the following:
“It is estimated that more than 40 million people around the world were victims of forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and trafficking in 2016. Between 2017 and 2018, a total of 74,514 victims of trafficking (VoTs) were detected in over 110 countries. The US Department of States reports 105,7876 VoTs were identified worldwide in 2019. THB disproportionately affects women and girls; 72 per cent of all victims detected worldwide are female. Moreover, sexual exploitation is the predominant form of trafficking with women and girls representing 94 per cent of total detected victims” - https://www.osce.org/odihr/458179
According to Hilary COVID-19 was the perfect storm for human traffickers due to the resultant effect of the economic downturn, and this has rendered so many people vulnerable and desperate. Traffickers prey on this and tap into it by coming across as so-called "saviours" in desperate situations. They are masters at identifying vulnerabilities. Human Trafficking happens on our doorsteps and she urges all to be aware. ACT focuses on educating women, so they are vigilant. www.actafrica.org.za
Regina Molloy, the scientist who impacts the world in many ways, has been teaching youth to bake for profit. Every week, the committed bakers are successfully generating profitable income. The bake for profit initiative, however, is not without risk. Some of the female bakers are either harassed telephonically or are required to deliver their baked products at night at weird addresses. This cohort is lucky to have Regina as their mentor as in addition to teaching baking skills, the art of selling and marketing, Regina also equips them with social and the security awareness, risks and how best to navigate through these situations.
In my role as Chairman of Business and Arts South Africa www.basa.co.za I connected with a few creative GBV awareness initiatives.
The Embrace Co-founder and fellow lawyer Lee-anne Germanos uses art as a weapon against GBV but also as a means of fundraising to support the eradication of GBV. Embrace has developed a 'blueprint' for the eradication of gender-based violence in South Africa and this submission is being considered by a parliamentary work stream.www.theembraceproject.com
On the 9th of August, I was introduced to Flatline Radio https://anchor.fm/flatline-music, a group of young musicians and community radio presenters fighting GBV through their music and messaging. Their song, Superwoman, drives GBV awareness and the protection of women. https://joox.page.link/LBRPCt
From the above, it is encouraging to know that many are fighting the war against GBV. The young female voices, the individuals, organisations, corporates, fathers, and politicians' commitment of time and money in mobilising the safety and protection of women and children amplifies my hope and belief that with our collective stance that someday our world will be free of hate, anger and violence and abuse against all life.
However, despite the many approaches and commitment, the WAR against our women and children still RAGES! As a country, we need to address the root causes of violence against women and children and this requires a myriad of targeted interventions from self-love to economic transformation.
As a start for lasting Change to happen within and around us we must be grounded in the belief that people can be better.
On this hopeful note, I proudly boast that I was privileged to be held in the hands of uMagogo (Elias Masilela’s mother). A woman’s legacy continues to represent strength and power in all forms. It is beautiful to witness how the Masilela family continue to sow the seeds of good and service uMagogo planted in this world and each of her children.
I am sending you all love, light, happy and healing energy!
Should you have any ideas, questions, and solutions please email -
Melissa, Kubeshni & Charmaine