Women's issues to the forefront
In her capacity as President of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s branch of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, Speaker Sharna Fernandez has initiated various activities during 2017 to firmly place the issue of gender-based violence on the agenda of the institution. In September she hosted a Women’s Dialogue, attended by delegates from various NGOs and CBOs that focus on gender-based violence issues across the Western Cape.
The seriousness of the emergence of gender-based violence is reflected in Statistics SA’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey released in May 2017. According to the results of this survey:
- 21% of women over the age of 18 reported having experienced violence at the hands of a partner. That’s one in five women;
- 8% of these women reported that they had experienced such violence during the last 12 months prior to taking the survey;
- Divorced or separated women were more likely to experience physical abuse; and
- In the Western Cape, 21.1% of women reported being victims of physical abuse.
These alarming statistics not only challenge societal attitudes of patriarchy and chauvinism, but also the effectiveness of government programmes and interventions.
With the national 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign starting on 25 November, three events have been planned by the Western Cape Provincial Parliament later this week:
- A Speaker’s Debate on Thursday, 23 November, will focus on the topic of violence against women and children;
- An exposition in the concourse between 4 Dorp Street and 7 and 15 Wale Street on 24 November will showcase a variety of NGOs, CBOs and government departments dealing with issues around gender-based violence, sharing information with the public and community groups; and
- On 24 November the Speaker will host an afternoon tea attended by current Members of the Provincial Parliament, former women Members, and representatives of some of the NGOs and CBOs that work in the field on gender-based violence. Sex slavery survivor and gender advocate, Grizelda Grootboom, will be the keynote speaker at the event. Mr Themba Kalua from United Nations Women will speak to the organisation’s HeForShe campaign, after which guests will have the opportunity to pledge to the campaign.
The Speaker, together with the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians branch of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, is committed to sustaining further activities around the issue of women and gender-based violence during 2018 – details of which will be communicated as the programme develops.