News

Churches, Wake up! Statement on Alleged Abuse and Protest of Young Women

31st January 2018

We should not be surprised by the alleged sexual violence in the Pretoria City Mission of the Methodist Church. Incidences of men treating women as sex objects and preying on young women are rife in the church, as they are in society. And it is almost a norm to silence and vilify women when they speak out and take a stand for gender equality. This happens quietly inside our faith communities, workplaces and homes, and mostly, we pretend nothing is happening – until someone gets so angry, they take action and have to be heard.

These things happen because churches still see sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as ‘evil people out there’. When it happens inside it is brushed off as a man of God having been ‘tempted’, as if he is not really responsible.

SGBV happens because churches do not have systems and policies to deal with it. If there is no clear disciplinary policy and clear sanctions on sexual harassment, rape and gender-based violence, we have no language with which to talk about it, no expected consequences, and our fear of sex and sexuality makes it impossible to imagine such words in church statutes. This is why the Bishop of the congregation could not give a coherent response when interviewed on Radio 702 on Tuesday morning. How is it possible that the uproar was mainly about the disruption and not the abuse? How can we so twist the truth that the victim becomes the aggressor against the church, and the perpetrator becomes the victim when women dare to speak their truth?

But it also happens because it is just not taken seriously. The Presiding Bishop had not informed himself of the outcome of the investigation (if there was one),  into the alleged incidence of sexual violence – yet it happened under his watch, and he allowed the accused minister in his Circuit to continue representing the church in ministry. His statement today tries to go further, but we still do not hear of disciplinary measures being instituted, and his reference to the accused as ‘the leader’, the complainant as ‘the lady’ and her supporters as ‘girls’ betray continued patriarchal attitudes.

The roots run very deep. We need to be honest enough to criticise our own religious and cultural traditions. We continue to read Scripture based on patriarchal interpretations that keep women subordinate and claim God has ordained male domination over women and children. The historical Jesus was clear that any form of domination is wrong. He always stood on the side of the oppressed, the silenced – and spoke truth to power. How have we allowed ourselves to adopt the same rigid dead approach to Scripture for which Jesus criticised the religious leaders of his time?

May this be a wake-up call to all of us in the Christian community.

We appreciate the apology and the repentance. But it is not enough. The leadership of the MCSA needs to stand up and lead decisively. Gender injustice and  gender-based violence are not acceptable in the House of the Lord, or anywhere else for that matter. There is no excuse. We cannot continue to condone violence in any form, and particularly violence based on the misuse of power by a church authority, who is supposed to represent Jesus Christ, liberator and prophet of peace.

Over 250 We Will Speak Out Coalition members, including almost 70 organisations, have set up www.wewillspeakout.org as a platform to help churches, individual believers and survivors of SGBV work together towards the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence and de-stigmatisation of survivors.

Church leaders can no longer say they turned away because they did not know what to do. Contact us at coordinator@wwsosa.org.za, or 072 4537 502.

If you are a survivor, contact 0730733763- don’t stay quiet. We, the Phephisa Survivors’ Network members are here for you.

Here is a simple thing we can all do to speak out:  Join the Thursdays in Black campaign (www.thursdaysinback.co.za) to end sexual violence as a sign of mourning in solidarity with all survivors and those who didn’t.

Join us to make our houses of faith beacons of hope and places of refuge for women in general and survivors of violence in particular.

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16 days Webinar: Working with SGBV survivors

Wednesday 29 November 2017: 12.30-13.30 UK time

As part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, We Will Speak Out coalition, through its members will host a webinar with a panel discussion on the role of faith in responding to the needs and priorities of SGBV survivors and building survivor movements that can shape policy and practice.

Chair
Steve Sanderson co-chairs We Will Speak Out global coalition and is Deputy Director of Missions at BMS World Mission, which is a member of We Will Speak Out coalition

Speakers
Solange Mukamana works for coalition founding member Tearfund  and leads a survivor movement with over 400 women in South Africa. These women are actively mobilising churches and government bodies so that communities in South Africa can be safe and free from violence. Solange is a qualified Social Worker.

Wangu Kanja is founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation. Wangu has built a movement of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya which brings together a unified voice of survivors to address sexual violence and amplify their voices across Kenya.

Esther Sweetman has worked for Restored for the last two years leading its online Survivors’ Network, developing resources and engagement with survivors.  She is a qualified Psychotherapist and Social Researcher and has worked in the helping profession in various roles for the last three decades.

The webinar will be hosted on WEBEX. To join the meeting, please use this webex link  and meeting number is 234 135 113.

We look forward to engaging with you on this issue!

Posted in News, Uncategorized.

A Groundbreaking Initiative for Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence

28th November, 10am-4 pm, at Glen Ridge Church

For the first time, and as part of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s programme for 16 days of activism, religious fraternities and key stakeholders will have a chance to engage with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on their experiences when seeking support from them.

An event is co-hosted by the Phephisa Survivors Movement together with We Will Speak Out SA Coalition and a number of other partners in KZN (KwaZulu Christian Council and its regional partners, Diakonia Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, KwaZulu Christian Council, the Gay and Lesbian Network and Lifeline).

The two main objectives are that survivors in KZN will receive better support and experience less stigmatization; and that there will be improved synergies between faith leaders and other stakeholders in both prevention efforts and support for survivors at provincial and local community levels.

The programme is split into two parts. The first session is a dialogue between faith leaders and members of a growing SGBV survivor movement in KZN, to help faith leaders respond to the survivors’ sharing of their experiences when seeking help from their faith communities. It will open a space for faith leaders to discuss practical ways to contribute to the broad sector that is engaged in various ways to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

The second session is a ‘multilogue’ – an open space for participants to address challenges experienced by survivors when seeking the services of a variety of stakeholders and how best to ensure improved continuity of services between public services and those (potentially) offered at local community level.

This session will end with a shared draft skeletal action plan to contribute to the Provincial 365 days Action Plan for 2018. It will propose concrete mechanisms for building on current good practices and improve synergies while addressing key gaps to effectively tackle underlying drivers of SGBV in prevention efforts.

Ethekwini Mayor, Her Worship Ms. Zandile Gumede and the Office of the Premier will address the gathering, attended by a wide spectrum of faith leaders, NGOs, Provincial service providers and other invited guests.

We Will Speak Out SA will also hold their Annual General Meeting from 8.30 to10am.

For more information, please contact Daniela 0724537502 or coordinator@wwsosa.org.za and for bookings, please contact or yspain@sai.co.za.

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We Will Speak Out at Sizimbokodo Meeting. 14/6/2017

We Will Speak Out South Africa, together with women from many different NGOs, faith organizations and activist groups came together yesterday to discuss actions they will take to address the pandemic proportions of violence against women and LGBTIAQ people in South Africa. This meeting was organized by a new social movement— Sizimbokodo. The movement is dedicated to smashing the patriarchy and ending violence against women and queer people. The meeting aimed to plan and strategize a national shut down, to bring the country to a standstill, in order to demand that the state and other duty bearers take urgent action to address gender violence across our country .

One of the many issues raised in the meeting which is of concern its how Faith communities and other independent organisations struggle to work together, and this is because there is lack of communication on issues such violence against women. There is a belief that the faith community is not having focus on ending violence against women because its not of concern.

This is not true because many faith organisations and churches  are active when it comes to fighting patriarchy and ending violence against women.

There is a huge need for dialogue between the faith community and other organisations like Sizimbokodo so that we can all work together as a unit. We need to make efforts in involving all involved parties and add all voices then our work will move forward successfully.

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Church Leaders’ Training by Sonke Gender Justice

One of the key pillars of the shared We Will Speak Out strategy is to mobilise church leaders to speak out, and to consider ways to make their churches safe spaces for survivors of SGBV. Sonke Gender Justice opened a safe and powerful space for gender activists, survivors, youth leaders and church leaders to come together and grapple with questions related to the church’s responsibility in the light of the increasingly common and cruel, both amongst churches and in wider society. Rafael Cazarin of Sonke reports on this workshop, below:

In June 2017, the Social and Structural Drivers (SSD) Portfolio of Sonke Gender Justice facilitated a five-day workshop on sexual and gender based violence with faith leaders from Kwazulu-Natal, supported by Amplify Change, Tear Fund and the We Will Speak out Coalition. Sonke’s team was comprised by SGBV activists and experts Bafana Khumalo, Vusi Cebekhulu, Mpho Mabhena and Rafael Cazarin. Representatives from faith communities came from both rural and urban areas, across various Christian denominations, both women and men.

Throughout the week, participants and facilitators engaged in group discussions and thematic sessions on the socio-cultural construction of gender in relation to emotions, sexuality, media, and the LGBTIQA perspective. In particular, gender sensitive bible studies were held through interactive reflections on biblical passages and their socio-cultural contexts. The workshop concluded with the joint development of action plans by participants to be implemented in their faith communities in the following months. To perform these plans, the We Will Speak Out Coalition will help to articulate networks of support amongst those faith leaders committed to gender justice.

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Brief Summary Report on the High Level Provincial Gender Machinery Meeting, hosted by the KZN Premier’s Office. 25/5/2017

Elangeni Hotel, 25th May 2017. Written by Daniela Gennrich, WWSOSA Interim Coordinator

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together multiple government and civil society stakeholders, to talk about SGBV in KZN, what work is being done, what gaps there are, and plan a strategy for the next few years.

The programme was divided into two parts: Prevention and Post-violence care – PVC’.

Apart from messages of support from the Men’s Sector, Traditional leaders sector and Pepfar, Minister of Social Development Ntuli, expressed her expectation of 2 outcomes of the meeting:

  1. A planning team to put together a massive KZN and SGBV march, and
  2. A planning process for a 365-days strategy.

Neither was achieved, but many people voiced their concerns, and/or profiled their work.

Some key concerns included:

  1. Although there is an existing Strategic Framework 2015-2019, this was never mentioned, unfortunately. WWSOSA requested that it be reviewed and revised, to account for the needs in 2017ff and to build on the good work already achieved. This was perhaps a reason why the 2nd objective of the meeting could never have been achieved.
  2. Most frequent, and most vehement, were concerns about lack of collaboration between sectors, and the work in silos. I proposed a strong focus on process, communication, and collaboration in establishing the proposed Provincial work plan.
  3. A strong criticism links to the lack of respect for the many community based initiatives that already exist – which should be learnt from and where possible, scaled up.
  4. My sense is that the Provincial HIV work is much more well developed and effective, and that there are attempts now to bring the two together. This is not a bad thing, but the GBV unit in the Premier’s office may need to be beefed up for success, as they currently have only 3 staff.
  5. Several gaps in the system were critiqued – eg. Between SAPS and the Justice system, when perpetrators are arrested and never brought to book; referrals from clinics and hospitals to Thuthuzela Care Centres far away mean many women cannot get there, psycho-social support for survivors is totally inadequate and stigma is still rife.
  6. Interestingly, researchers from Wits and MATCH reported on reviews of the Thuthuzela Care Centres and survivor support at other health care facilitiesbut the research did not involve survivor perspectives. I wonder if we should send in some of the WWSOSA research done thus far – even though it did not focus exclusively on their experiences at these facilities? **
  7. Many initiatives are directed at girls and women – not enough on boys and men.
  8. There are no widespread initiatives with faith communities.
  9. Spending huge funding on a provincial march has never been shown to bring real change. WWSOSA suggested an alternative process – perhaps having parallel marches/ consultative meetings in different regions – to really hear what people’s concerns are, what they are already doing – and their ideas for a provincial strategic work plan. Although the Premier’s Office restated their commitment to a march, this alternative idea may also be rolled out.

The MAIN BENEFIT of attending this consultative forum was NETWORKING, with useful contact made with many people from diverse backgrounds and doing really good work. This is likely to help the faith sector’s ability to make a meaningful impact.

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Lessons from Act Alliance Gender Solidarity Platform for WWSOSA Strategic Thinking. 16-17/5/2017

Kopanong Hotel, 16-17 May 2017, Daniela Gennrich, WWSOSA Interim Coordinator

A number of Southern African Faith based partners working on gender and sexual and gender based violence were invited by 4 members of the Act Alliance (Christian Aid, Church of Sweden, Norwegian Church Aid and Brot Fuer die Welt) to reflect on our practice, and consider ways that collaboration might open opportunities for new ways of working and collaboration between North-South and South-South partners for improved impact of gender work in the region.

Session 1 involved partners reflecting on what has and has not worked in their gender work;

Session 2 considered some key contextual factors that influence our work;

Session 3 opened up conversations about key learnings from our practice, ideas for collaboration and suggestions for practical action steps.

I thought to share some key insights that we might wish to draw on for our own WWSOSA process of coalition-building.

 

  1. Resource mobilisation is key (as if we didn’t know that!), and it is vital to understand the changing aid sector.

The power relations between the traditional Northern donor NGOs and the South are beginning to change, with the northern donors actually needing our wisdom and experience, as they are facing for the first time the sorts of things we have faced for years, such as funding shortages, social upheaval and increasing violence.

We need to find alternative ways of accessing necessary resources to fund our work, which is becoming increasingly urgent as social and economic upheaval impacts increasingly on the materially poor. Two thoughts:

  • Can we enter into more mutual relationships with northern funding NGOs, where we offer our experience and expertise gained from years of working in difficult circumstances, while northern partners offer more technical expertise and knowledge of the global aid sector.
  • Coalition-building and joint fundraising efforts can avoid duplication of work, strengthen our technical expertise, and offer a more streamlined approach to funding contracts for the funders.
  1. Engagement with faith communities has to be complemented with engagement with traditional and cultural beliefs and practices – particularly because they collude in resisting gender transformation and enabling, condoning, or perpetrating SGBV. We may need to consider approaching possible technical members to offer technical support in this? Or simply opening some shared learning platforms?
  2. We talk about ‘involving survivors’ and taking seriously their voices, as if we are separate from them.

Would it not be more helpful to challenge ourselves to recognize that WE (both women and men) are survivors and/or indirectly affected through abuse existing in our families and close circles. Like with HIV – SGBV is amongst us: about 1/3 of us as women are survivors (and perhaps more men than we currently know have experienced violence)

It is true, of course, that our practice needs to find creative ways of listening to the experiences of those who are most vulnerable to SGBV amongst us. Would this enable us to all start from a much more inclusive and safe place if we started from acknowledging that we are all affected?

  1. There is a huge need for shared learning spaces in general, and perhaps for creating ‘communities of practice’ in the NGO world. WWSOSA thus offers something that people need.
  2. Recent events indicate that what we have been doing to date just has not had the impact we had hoped for. The shared reflection and learning approach would help in identifying innovative ways of working.
  3. We need to develop more conscious methodologies – through introspecting more – (See-judge-act offers a simple but powerful approach). Some considerations:
    • The problems and our responses have multilayered dimensions, and so we need to build in a consciously reflective practice
    • We cannot solve SGBV without tackling patriarchy and exposing it in all its guises – including in Scripture and religion. How do partners go about challenging patriarchal society, practically? How do we know whether / how our diverse contributions help to dislodge patriarchy (or inadvertently reproduce it)? If we respond to symptoms only – what are the consequences?
    • How we use language matters – it is the main means of transmitting oppressive norms, challenging them, or re-imagining new ones.

Are we conscious of how women, women’s bodies are reflected in language choices? Even violence can be normalized by our language choices (note that we ‘fight’ against GBV, local government has created ‘war rooms’ as spaces where people and government officials are supposed to work together to solve key social problems).

How we talk about our work, and how faith communities use language in liturgy, worship as well as preaching have consequences for women’s bodily integrity / sovereignty, and men’s entitlement

  1. Advocacy:
    • A key message is that there is NO social justice without gender justice. Many churches and NGOs have excellent social justice programmes, but are blind to gender injustice. We need to develop critical lens to call this bluff, as WWSOSA in our advocacy work.
    • Policy Advocacy in SA has been very successful in shaping national policies. But monitoring implementation of policy is much harder – it requires a combination of data collected by people on the ground and those with expertise– review and also implementation – need collaboration and cooperation for this to be more than a series of public statements. This takes us back to the importance of being conscious of our blind spots and working with great care on the power dynamics between us. We need each other – those working on the ground, and those making higher-level contributions.

 

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#NotinmyName March on the 26/5/2017

A number of people gathered to participate in the #NotInMyName march against gender based violence at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus to Regina Mundi Church. There were more than 500 people who participated in the march. Various church leaders, organisations and Government departments were visible and making noise against Gender Based Violence.

Faith communities were also visible in their various church uniforms. I was there to represent Thursdays in Black and We Will Speak Out SA. Bishop Adams officiated the Soweto #NotInMyName march.

MEC for Community Safety: Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane and Minister Susan Shabangu were also part of the march.

The marchers chanted, ‘Not in my name’, with many thrusting their clenched fists towards the sky. Men were on the forefront holding banners and standing up against the brutality against women in our communities.

Organisers of the event said all women who had been attacked and killed by men would not be forgotten, and that their names would not be buried with their bodies, but remembered as the powerful women they were.

The #NotInMyName campaign could become a non-profit organisation in order to start helping all women who are marred by the violence of men in South Africa.

Written by Nonceba Ravuku

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Friday’s march #NotInMyName a day of protest against abuse

The Open Disclosure Foundation, Sonke Gender Justice, the Buhle bolwazi Foundation and partner civil society formations are calling on government, communities and individuals to join a march this Friday, May, 26.

The march – #NotInMyName – will serve to register collective anger about how women and children are raped and killed in our society. Whilst noting the existence of government’s policies, strategies and programmes, the #NotInMyName campaign was borne to point to the fact that we live in a violent society, where women and children are brutalised daily.

This morning, Xolani Gwala spoke to Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation, one of the organisers:

“I think what we also need to acknowledge as a collective, is that we seem to have normalised the abnormal in terms of issues of issues of gender-based violence.”

Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation

“We have come up with a draft program of action that we hope government will embrace…we are appealing to government to say we here here. As civil society we want to join hands with you, we want to work with you, we acknowledge the programs that are in place, the policies, the strategies, but let’s take a look t what exactly is it that we can do to enhance intervention on the ground.”

Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation

Join the march on Friday and stand up against gender based violence in your community. The march will leave from UJ Soweto Campus at 10:00, and will end at Regina Mundi Church.

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Equipped for Research

Written by Siyabulela Tonono, Published in New Dimension newsletter

From the 24-25th April, the Justice and Service desk of the Methodist Church Mission Unit hosted a two day training workshop on gender-based violence at the MCO boardroom. The aim of the workshop was to train research field workers that will be administering surveys in various parts of the Gauteng province, as part of the Amplify Change project that the Methodist Church is an implementing partner of.

Through funding from Amplify Change, the MCSA is part of an initiative that is aimed at creating a movement across faith communities and civil society, including survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, that will work together to prevent and end the pain of Sexual Gender Based Violence nationally and specifically in communities across 4 provinces of South Africa. The project has been rolled out in two provinces already, Kwa Zulu Natal and the Western Cape, and is currently being rolled out Gauteng.

The project is a partnership between Tearfund, Sonke Gender Justice, CABSA, Zoe-Life and the MCSA. The aims of the intervention are to

  • Build a Sexual and Gender Based Violence Survivor Movement in South Africa
  • Support the development of We Will Speak Out South Africa coalition in its vision of ending SGBV
  • Work with faith communities to create safe spaces for SGBV survivors
  • Activate men and boys to spearhead ending of SGBV

In the Gauteng province, the role of the MCSA has been that of identifying communities and congregations that have been actively involved in the field of sexual and gender-based violence.  The plan for the research arm of the project is to conduct research on the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs and practices of faith communities  on SGBV. The research will be conducted in the communities of KwaThema, in Springs, Kya Sands informal settlement north of Randburg and Alberton.

The research fieldworkers that were part of the training come from these communities and work in as community activists within their communities. The purpose of the training was to better equip them with the technical skills that will be necessary to conduct research in the communities. Upon conclusion of the research, the findings will be fed back into the community and serve as way for the community to look at the issues that the research highlights.

The fieldworkers will commence their work in May and should complete the data collection by the end of the month.

(For more information on the project contact the Justice and Service desk on 011 615 1616 or email Siyabulela@mco.org.za)

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