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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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MSC Stories of Change

Stories of change messages of hope MSC report Final 2017

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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.

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

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!

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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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Men of Honour Meeting. 9/6/2017

Almost 50 men signed the WWSOSA Pledge to speak up against sexual and gender based violence.

We have received positive reviews from the men who attended. My team members have gone on to say that this is the best network we’ve ever had in the 3 years we’ve been working together. The feeling we all have is that this was the most relevant and practical men’s meeting we’ve had. Since I’ve been placed to lead the ministry, the goal was to be as practical and basic as possible. I told the team 3 years ago that it makes no sense to me to preach up a storm unless our men walk out of the room with readily applicable principles to change their lives for the better. A lot of the men were absolutely shocked about how it is us as men who perpetuate the culture of rape/violence against women through the smallest acts we do not knowingly. That diagram you took us through was eye-opening. Right from the eldest man in the room to the youngest, everyone has gotten a huge wake-up call about what is actually going on in our society. We are so grateful.

The dialogue towards lasting change has definitely begun.

At our Father’s Day service, we had Cluster Commander Major-General B. Nxabela together with the Deputy Station Commander for the Umlazi SAPS come in to address the various interventions the police have towards combating the spread of violence. They have expressed a desire to work hand-in-hand with us in their efforts to influence men across our community. My team is meeting next week with one of our church psychologists to start plotting a way forward for us as men internally and then we will move to meet with our local SAPS branch from there.

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Stories Of Change: South African Survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Speak Out.

Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are central to We Will Speak Out SA. A programme funded by Amplify Change  is documenting stories of Most Significant Change (MSC) of the survivors and survivor champions since joining support groups initiated by Tearfund SA.

In addition to this formal process, we would also like to share some individual stories documented by survivors and survivor Champions thus far in the process.

The final MSC report will be finalised by end June/early July.

Names in stories have been changed to protect the identities of survivors. Read the stories:

Ada’s story

After my mother died I went to stay with my uncle who is a police man. At 12 years old, I was in boarding school. My uncle took me from boarding school and treated me as his own daughter, and he was a father to me, we would always eat together. I trusted him, because he was my father. One day, during lunch time, I was eating and drinking Fanta and started feeling drowsy. I fell asleep and later woke up in hospital where I was given medicine. My uncle came to see me and told me that if I speak of what happened he will shoot me, he then showed me his gun.

I did not go back to school after that and I didn’t go back to live with my uncle. I fled to Burundi. There I found family – my sister’s friend took me to their home but couldn’t afford to send me to school. Only later I managed to go to school in Burundi and I had friends. I was influenced by friends to get a boyfriend who can pay for what I needed.

I started having problems at school. Male teachers tried to convince me to sleep with them in exchange to pass my grade. Because I refused they gave me low marks and I started to fail. I felt like I was losing. My boyfriend who was paying for my school fees at the time left me after hearing rumours about the teachers. He thought that I had slept with them.

One day, my sister phoned to tell me she was selling my mother’s house in Rwanda. I left to Rwanda and we shared the money from the sale. I was 18 years old by that time. I went back to Burundi where I met a friend of mine who was staying here in South Africa. During that time, the war in Burundi broke out. We planned and travelled from Burundi to South Africa together.

In South Africa I started to survive. I met my husband who is a Christian. He introduced me to his church and I became a born again Christian. I was Baptised and my life started to change. But I couldn’t feel love because I hated men. I had no feelings for men, they were only financial security for me.

At church one day, there was an announcement that they were looking for women who would like to talk about their challenges. I was curious. I met Solange (Tearfund) but had no idea why we were being called. We were given the day to meet and I will never forget it – 2013. We were 12 women and I was waiting to see what they were going to say. They spoke about rape. I was confused…how am I going to share my story?

We started to continue the group meetings and it was always about talking, every time. The day I finished talking, I felt like the heaviness I have carried in my heart was now empty. That night I couldn’t sleep and thought of what happened, worried that people will take it outside the group or even tell my husband. He didn’t know.

But the women I shared my story with kept the secret. The more meeting days came the more I changed. I became stronger and able to teach other new members. Having a group is teaching me how to recognise problems other women or friends may have and I can talk to them about it.

Through the group, I started to find a way to survive by myself. I work now, running my own business. My business is going well. Before this, I was unable to do anything because of self doubt.

Now I have taken the  responsibility of helping other women who have similar problems.

Ntombi’s story

There is nothing better than the opportunity to reflect on your own journey. It gives you the pleasure of seeing Gods work in your life and the grace that one takes for granted. I remember 4 years ago I was a bitter young lady who was angry with the world.  I had questions but sadly enough I had no one to ask. I was sexually abused on my way home from the library by a stranger. It was during my exams and after it happened I couldn’t concentrate so I decided to drop out.

I was given 6 sessions with the social worker but couldn’t finish them because to me it made no sense – going to someone who have a pile of work where I’m just one of many. I wanted someone who will at least understand my life. I joined Abanqobi, a support group which is under the Phephisa movement. When I joined, I thought it was one of those organisations who will just come and take your stories, but to my surprise they listened to me and did follow-ups.

We had healing sessions which helped me a lot, we shared and listened to other stories which I could relate to.  Having people who make time just to listen to you and encourage you is the best. The group motivated me so much and I went back and did my studies. I am now able to talk about my story without feeling angry or crying. The fact that I survived encouraged me to reach out to more survivors and encourage those who do not believe that there is life after such pain. Our hope as a group is to live in a community that doesn’t believe in one person’s power over another – but a community that is peaceful and is non-violent.

We meet the last Sunday of each month as a group, just to build our relationships with each other and do activities, which is mostly awareness. The workshops that TEARFUND and WE WILL SPEAK OUT has been providing us played a major role in my life and also to us as a group. We have learned more and applied what we have learned in our community.  I am convinced that where there is love and where women are empowered there is a way. Being with the ladies transformed my anger into empowerment. I am a powerful young lady. I hope that my efforts and my abilities will reach out to every survivor in this country.

Change lies in wisdom, wisdom lies in listening and listening is a tool.

I am a human made in God’s image, my purpose is to is to be available to serve others and my responsibility is to love.

Amara’s story

I am 28 years old and live in Umlazi and hold a diploma in travel and tourism. I was raped when I was 17 years old just a few days after Valentine’s Day by a boy who I thought was my friend. On my way back home from church he invited me to come and have lunch. It was a friendly lunch until he forced himself on me. I did not tell anyone about the incident, I went home took a shower and carried on with my daily duties. To this day I’ve never shared it with anyone from my family. Somehow I feel that they will judge me and see it as my fault. I feel safe and comfortable sharing it with other fellow survivors because they can understand how I feel.

Being a victim is very hard because you feel that it’s the end of the world and it changes your life a lot. You feel used and feel that you can never trust anyone, it changes the way of you think and how you carry yourself. Of course, to this day I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day as it reminds of the days that followed my rape. Since joining Tearfund, I’ve recovered drastically because I’ve found myself after so many years. It has brought me so much healing and made me aware that rape is everywhere and not reporting your case is a big mistake. I’ve also learnt that sharing brings healing.

The things that I gave up on a few years ago, I now believe I can conquer, because the ladies have given me so much support and strength to go on. I’m currently studying a teaching degree – I have passion for kids. In the beginning, I wanted to be an air-hostess, because after the rape, I believed that flying away would heal all my wounds only to find that I was just chasing a destiny that is not mine.

Finally, I can say I’m in a better space and happy to work with kids and other women who have gone through the same pain. I’ve been a champion/survivor with Tearfund for four years and I have six other women that I lead in my group. Most of us have experienced rape. All the ladies in my group have diplomas and degrees that they have obtained after their healing sessions with our group. It motivated them to go back and study and finish what they started.

It is safe to say that not only uneducated and poor people get raped. We all do not matter our background. As a group, we support each other by being there for each other emotionally and physically. We are more like a family now than people who met in church. The meetings and activities that we engage in show that healing can improve your life.

Nandi’s story

When I was 16 on my way back from school I was invited by a friend to come and visit. We had been friends for over two years so visiting him was something that was normal to me. At the time, I would have never guessed that he would hurt me in any way. That Thursday which was a day after our last exam he forced himself on me.

After the incident, he acted as if everything is normal and our friendship to continue as normal. When I got home I felt so hurt and used. I took a bath and blamed myself for the whole thing because I felt that I might have led him on by being his friend. In our culture it is taboo to be friends with boys as a girl. Because of that, I decided not to tell anyone about the incident. The years that followed were the worst of my life. I believed that men just use women and throw us away. I never believed in love and I was very rebellious. I started drinking because it made me feel better. Until I fell pregnant with a child that had no father because once he heard that I was pregnant he moved away. After having my son my life seemed to change for the better because I had to be home for my child. So I decided to go back to church in order to ground myself that’s where I heard about a support group that is run by other ladies in the church. They shared about the group during a women’s conference in church. I joined the group and met other survivors that shared their stories and it made me comfortable to share my story.

Sharing my story really brought back a lot of pain that I didn’t realise that the rape had made my life what it was – a big mess. I was left with a child with no father and I hadn’t finished my studies. After a few healing sessions with the ladies my life has changed a lot. I finally got the courage to tell my family of the incident and my mother got to understand what had made me turn out the way I was. Now I have support from my family and my mother has offered me to go back to college to finish my diploma. With the support from the group I have found a new me and I’m much happier than before. I’m a born again Christian and a great mother to my son. So I can really say that being in a group is a good thing. I have new friends with the church and family in the ladies that we attend meetings with.

Miryam’s story

Before I came into the support group called “Silence no more” I had lost my baby. I was not thinking of anyone, not even my baby’s twin who was left behind. I fell into a deep depression and started losing my mind. I couldn’t control myself, it felt like the whole world came to a standstill. I was an angry person who would snap if anybody said anything to me even – if it was a compliment. I felt that no one understood me and I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt. Not until I met my group Champion (“Aunty B”).  She asked me to attend a group session that she held by the library. I didn’t know what to expect and when I got there it was a support group I felt I didn’t need any support but when Aunty B started sharing, she had such a sweet manner and tears filled my eyes. I was glad I came to the group. As everyone in the group also started sharing I started to feel comfortable and I opened up about everything. I spoke about the time the abuse started and how I lost my baby. I know my baby was murdered and it hurts but my baby’s daddy still didn’t not stop the abuse – physical and sexual abuse. It just made me more and more angry, but thank God, Aunty B kept encouraging me. Each week that I attended the group I started to feel much better. She then encouraged me to go back to school and that also made me look at life in a different way (a positive way).

Aunty B then got me involved in different kinds of community work which kept me busy. I started sharing and the more I spoke the better I felt. We then went for training by an organisation which works with rape survivors. After our training a new victim friendly centre was opened at the Mariannridge police station and that is where most of our ladies are now working after our training. I can finally see a brighter future thanks to the first day I went to the group and for all the support I got from the ladies, especially Aunty B. Together we are stronger. Helping each other every day is still a challenge but we are getting there.

Grace’s story

I suffered from depression and planned to run away. I was giving up and running, but my God had another plan for me. I met a lady from church who didn’t say much or even judge me, she just asked me to stay for a while. She introduced me to a women’s Bible study group (support group) and we grew close. I heard their stories which made me change my mind about running away. I have realised that my problem was small and I went back to my own community to start my own Bible study group with women who have been through similar problems as I have.

I thank God for this. It has pushed me to finish my studies because now I am able to speak out to my husband and tell him how I feel which makes me stronger. I now have my Master’s degree and I have rebuilt my relationship with my husband.

Mary’s story

My childhood home was a warm home. We were good hearted people who were welcoming to everyone with a problem or who didn’t have a place to stay. We would take people in as a brother or sister like real family members.

One day my mother wasn’t at home and left us children at home. She wasn’t worried as she knew there were older people to look after us. A man at home came to me and forced himself on me and raped me. I was a child. I was so confused and I didn’t know who to tell or what to do. As I was young, it was physically painful for me and I struggled to walk. When my mom came back she asked what has happened to me. She started crying because the man said if she reports him he will kill us – my mom and her family. My mother cleaned me and told me to have a rest. She went to confront the man again and chased him away from our home.

I am an older woman now. I joint the support group and realised more girls and women are experiencing rape every day and not speaking out because they fear being blamed or judged for it. I saw the importance of sharing and showing that even an old lady like me was raped. But it is important to speak out, report the incident and get help as soon as possible. For me, I took time to accept or report as it was back in the days where it was hard to speak about sex.

Lu’s story

Coming into a new relationship, I didn’t know I was bringing my hurt into the marriage, but my support group has helped me in a huge way. As a Champion, you speak to someone but then realise you are speaking to yourself as well and not only the group in your community. Most of all, the Champion group has played a huge role in helping me, the Champions may not realise this, but they have helped me rebuild my marriage and be open and loving to my husband – I was abused in previous relationships so when my husband tries to come close to me I would push him away. He would buy me things but I wouldn’t accept it because I will feel that he thinks he owns me. Even our sexual relationship was bad. By the time we have been married for 6 years he hasn’t seen my body because I was always told in the past how ugly I was.

I was so used to be beaten badly and even when the blood was dripping from beatings I had to still have sex (not ‘make love’). I am grateful for the support group, and mostly for the group of Champions.

Now, I have even taken a picture and sent it to my husband, he now has seen my body and our relationship is better. He even told me he was giving up but now he has his beautiful wife and he loves me. I really didn’t know love, because all my life I had to fight. I was abused, but now I can laugh.

Sarah’s story

I’m 21 years old, I live in Durban. I live with my mother my sister and my brother. My mother is a domestic worker and we survive only on her salary. When I was doing grade 11, I was not on good terms with my sister, she was jealous of me because I was slim and she was a plus size.

One day when my mother wasn’t at home and my brother was working night shift, my sister and my nephew came into my room. She made my nephew rape me in front of her while she was laughing – asking why can’t the beauty I always show off with fight for me. I was so hurt emotionally and physical mostly because I loved my sister. I couldn’t believe she had done such a horrible thing to me.

I woke up the following morning and went to school. It was a Tuesday. I couldn’t remember a single lesson at school as my mind was not at school. I decided not to tell anyone. I failed my grade 3 times and I decided to quit school.

In 2015, I joined the support group in Umlazi which was introduced by my friends. Initially I didn’t talk I would just come and sit and listen to other people sharing. Eventually I felt comfortable around these women and felt loved and supported by them. They encouraged me to go for counselling.  I am now doing my matric in IET and have realized that silence is very dangerous and can stop you living your life while the person who did the damage does not even care.

Siyanda’s story

I am a 23-year-old lady born and raised by a single mom in a township of Umlazi. I matriculated in 2012 and I was very passionate about travelling and exploring nature. My mother is a hard worker, a good hearted strong woman. She was my role model growing up. I’m the eldest daughter of her 3 children.

In 2013, my mother had a fight with her sister (my aunt). My aunt, out of anger, told my mom to tell me where I came from and why I don’t have a father.

I was very confused because my mom told me my father passed away while she was pregnant. That evening, my mother called me and told me who my father was. She said that he had raped her and as result, she fell pregnant with me. I have never felt so betrayed and upset in my life. I ran away from home and stayed with my friends for a week. I could not understand how a woman I love so much can lie to me and I was upset that I’m a product of rape.

Eventually I went back home but nothing was the same again. One morning I woke up and decided to go see my “father”. I was not sure what I wanted to hear from him but I just wanted to confront him.

When I confronted him, he said that he was sorry for what he did to my mom and he’s been trying all his life to be a father to me but my mom has been blocking him. This was more confusing to me and complicated things even more for me. In church I heard about the support group, so I went and shared my story. We then started counselling with my mom and we are still finding a way to normalise the situation. I enjoy the time we share as a group and the activities we do together. My mother has forgiven my father. I pray to God that one day I can be able to see him as a father and not as a rapist.

Survivors new to support groups.

The two survivors below are new to support groups and will keep documenting their experience of the group and process of change over the next months. They are in the beginning stages of their healing and finding their voices in the groups they belong to.

Sophia’s story

In 2015, November 18, I was at a bar and had an argument with a local man. He slapped me. I got angry and wanted to phone the police. Another (local) man insisted that I lay charges. He offered to accompany me to the police. There was sugar cane and forest-like vegetation on the way. I knew this man, he is my neighbour. In the middle of the road he refused to take me home and said we were going to have sex in the sugar cane. I realised that he was serious when he pointed a knife at me. I tried to run away but he tripped me, beat and kicked me. He removed my clothes and raped me twice. Afterwards, he told me: “Do you know that I can dig your eyes out so that there will be no proof?”

He forced me to stand and dress myself. He then accompanied me home to make sure that I don’t go to the police station. On the way home, he asked me if I was going to press charges against him and I said no. He told me to tell my family that it was the man I had an argument with at the bar who did this to me. At home, I knocked on the door and my mother opened. He told my mother that the man I had an argument with at the bar had done this to me. As soon as he left, I told my mother the truth.

The next morning, I took the clothes I wore and phoned the police. They took me to the police station for a statement. They also took me to the hospital. At hospital, I was checked and cleaned. The police started to look for my rapist, and found him. He was arrested, taken to the police station and detained for 8 months. By that time, I was working at a convenience store and was always short in my till. I was unable to focus and couldn’t cope. I ended up getting dismissed at work.

The investigator brought me the dates of the case, I attended 3 days consecutively. On the first day, everyone felt sick in the courtroom. He was found to have 8 previous convictions but have always managed to win the cases.

When he testified, I was always taken outside, but when I testified, he was always in the courtroom.

On the 3rd day, the court called the man I had the argument with as a witness. Later I heard that my rapist was free, but there was evidence to support my case. I heard that he won the case. It is bitter that I still see him. I don’t know what he thinks about me – to this day he even greets me.

I received a call from Kwazulu Regional Christian Council (KRCC). We met at KRCC offices and I spoke to them about the incident, there were other survivors of rape and they also spoke – we all spoke. Solange (Tearfund), asked me to bring the case number.

I am still angry and I still want to appeal because I cannot stand watching him walk free. Since the case was finalised I have not been able to get into contact with the investigating officer. He is always out of the office.

What I wish is for the support group to help me to appeal because I cannot do it on my own and the man who raped me is a gangster. On the first day of the support group I found some healing in the fact that there are so many other women who survivor the same and worse.

Throughout my ordeal, I only received counseling once.

Lethabo’s story

I was 14 years old, on my way to church in the evening far away from home. It was my brother’s birthday. We passed by a shop, boys were shouting at us telling us to stop. They then started chasing us and we ran in different directions. One of the boys carried a golf club and he forced me to love him – he claimed that I was his girlfriend. He forced me to go to his place. He beat me with the golf club and took me into an empty room. He pushed me to his bed and took off his clothes. He gagged me with a towel and raped me.

Later on, women came looking for me. He escaped through the window. In the door, I saw people including my sister. They took me to a house. From there I went to my mother and she accompanied me to the clinic and the police station. I was examined and given medication.

I haven’t received any counselling. I have tried to kill myself with contraceptive pills. My neighbour’s sister was laughing at me, asking me: “how does it feel”.

We attended my case in January. He was arrested and I went to court to testify. The investigator told my sister that if she agrees to have sex with him (the investigator) I will win the case. She refused and the case disappeared.

In 2009 we heard that the investigating officer was discharged from service. He used to propose to me and tried giving me his money but I did not give in to his demands. I was scared to go to school because there was a man who looked just like him always standing outside the school with sunglasses.

In 2013 I met my boyfriend and we had a baby together. He cheated on me while I was pregnant, and made another woman pregnant who used to threaten me. There was no support at home which is why I found myself dependent on this relationship. I nearly had a miscarriage.

Later on, I used to be absent at school because I had no one to look after my baby. A friend connected me with a woman who then introduced me to a Champion in Durban and also to Solange (Tearfund).

I started to trust again and had people to talk to. My life was changing.

My baby boy is 3 years old now. But I’m still angry.

The investigating officer was found shot dead in a ditch.



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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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