Rudi Buys serves as executive dean and dean of humanities at the non-profit and social justice focused private higher education institution, Cornerstone Institute.

Even with a world-renowned Constitution and legislative frameworks that aim to protect women and girls, South Africa still has high rates of gender-based violence (GBV). This violence has intensified since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with crime statistics revealing that the country has seen a 72% increase in rape in this period.

Violence against women and girls is a global problem, particularly rife in South Africa, which has a history of violence coupled with other psycho-social, environmental, health and financial issues. Covid-19 has amplified the risk factors associated with GBV, including unemployment and poverty. According to the United Nations, the economic fallout from the pandemic is expected to push 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty in 2021. The pandemic is undoing decades of socio-economical progress by perpetuating structural inequalities that reinforce violence against women and girls.

For a country like South Africa – which is considered the global rape capital and where missing and or murdered women are consistently trending in the news and on social media – it is important that we remain aware of the inhumanity of gender-based violence and that we do not normalise it.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is an international campaign that aims to raise awareness and generate action around GBV. It encourages both society at large and a wide range of organisations – not limited to the GBV activism space – to take a stand.

Gender-based violence is linked to many other societal factors, all of which need to be addressed independently. Our focus cannot be limited to GBV when education, employment, the environment and healthcare are also concerns. However, for organisations engaged in addressing such issues, the 16 Days of Activism campaign does provide an opportunity for more targeted and widespread activism. For those whose primary focus is not GBV prevention, it’s an important opportunity to get involved and help fight this monstrous issue.

To eliminate gender-based violence, activism must go beyond just 16 days each year. It is important to support organisations and activists who are working in this sector daily, which is why – beyond calling on our communities and South African society to act against GBV – Cornerstone’s 16 Days of Activism campaign has focused this year on using our platform to bring attention to organisations working on the frontlines of gender activism in South Africa every day of the year.

Twenty years after the inaugural 16 Days, this campaign still matters. It is still as important as ever for ordinary South Africans and organisations to call for the elimination of violence against women and girls, to lend support to frontline organisations, and to continue to remember that violence against women is never acceptable – especially in the midst of a pandemic.

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