WHAT DOES 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM MEAN TO YOU?

27 Nov

WHAT DOES 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM MEAN TO YOU?

I have been in the activism space for over 15 years now, during that time I have seen a lot of positive and negative changes in terms of gender equality, violence to women and the myths and misconceptions that surround it. Exactly a year ago, I was caught in the middle of a rather unfortunate incident where my nose was broken and the journey that I encountered after was scary and frustrating. With my experience in the gender empowerment space, I was expecting the negative backlash and fortunately for me, there are many people who love me and gave me the love, strength and support that I needed. My journey started from the day I landed back in South Africa to having to go into surgery and then the emotional and physical healing. I took time out to process the pain and deal with the issues. From January to May I underwent what so many other survivors went through, of having to be strong and prove to authorities that you have the right to be treated with dignity and that the incident was not my fault. . Making trips to Botswana where the authorities tried to discredit me and the case, the negative attitudes from others, even so called family saying that the fight was not worth it and that I should just drop it and move on with life. My determination and strength and power which I gained from many finally led me to a mediation between my lawyer and the man who hit me, where he apologised, agreed to reimburse my medical costs, travels back and forth to Botswana to meet with the police and admit to the fact that the mater was handled in the wrong way, he also agreed to make a hefty donation to a women’s organization that is based in Botswana.

As I moved on with m life and continued to work closely within the activism space and speaking out on my social network sites, I noticed an increase in people talking, giving their opinions and speaking out.

In April, the terrorist organization Boko Haram attacked a girls school in Chibok, Borno state, in northern Nigeria, abducting between 250 – 300 young school girls. I wad made aware of it via Twitter through a comment by my friend Marang Setswaelo, she questioned why the incident was not reported in our newspapers and why was it not a concern to SA media. The response was that it was not news worthy, this sparked lengthily discussions between friends, followers and total strangers. Then a tweet was posted via a lady, that I had never met, her name is Lerato Nkosi. She tweeted and tagged myself and few other personalities saying we need to do something. I then did some research on Boko Horam and discovered how dangerous they are and that the incident was not a Nigerian problem but rather a global problem. Just the year before after a business trip to Kenya, an Islamic militant group attacked a shopping centre where I frequented. I was fearful and many of us spoke about how it could happen anywhere in the world. We all watched closely how the Nigerian government did nothing to assist the families of the girls. We spoke to our activist contacts on the ground in Chibok and across Nigeria. They were frustrated and furious at the lack of support and response from the government.
After the tweet that Lerato posted, we galvanized and before we knew it, two days later, we had a network of men and women who were working tirelessly to create awareness. We received a donation from the Positive Women’s network for banners and T-shirts, we sat till midnight sending emails to all of our networks, pleading with SA police to help us with road closure and security. We sat around a boardroom table writing up a memorandum that we handed over to The Nigerian consulate in JHB. We called on personalities, business people, religious figures, schools, anybody who believed in being part of the change that the world needed.
Within three days we galvanized over 200 people, all clad in our yellow printed shirts, marching to the consulate. To date the girls have not been returned and there has been a lot of speculation that they have been married off to Boko Horam soldiers, some reports have stated that they possibly could have been sold off as sex slaves.
Many questioned the Nigerian government and their lack of concern when it came to rescuing the girls. This is a government that was able to curb and stop the Ebola virus from spreading into its country but they had to rely on the rest of the world to assist in capturing over 200 school girls.
This just goes to prove that the life of a girl does not mean a lot.
This is a global problem, every county can report incidents where women are still fighting for their rights, that they do not receive dignity when reporting crimes and the fact that survivors still receive secondary victimization from authorities. Right on our shores, there have two cases involving the South African police where this has occurred. I mention two as I have the permission to speak about them.
First was the Hillbrow police station where a rape was reported and six male policemen were sent to the crime. They found the perpetrator on the premises and they let him go. The survivor asked for medical attention and she was told to sleep it off. I met with the Police spokesperson and had many meetings with different members from the police force where I was given the run around, lied to and basically told that nothing would happen to the policemen in question and that I should know that she had been drinking. My argument once again was that although alcohol was involved, rape is still a crime. The case was withdrawn at request from the survivor but she still wanted to pursue the case against the policemen, to date our emails and phone calls have been ignored.

In July a so-called friend raped a 21year old lady. She reported the case at the Moffatview police station and was met by a Captain Buys, who’s first response to her was that she should know better and should not hang around with Nigerian men. This is not only classified as secondary victimization but it is also xenophobic. The journey that this strong young lady had to go on has been extraordinary. The perpetrators employees tried to bribe her with R20 000:00. She did not accept the bribe. The prosecutor in charge said she would keep the file open and when the survivor was strong enough to pursue the case they would continue. When she went back to the court to continue, the investigating officer in charge was called back and was very angry that the case was still continuing. His name is Mr. Mehlomakhulu
We have met on three different occasions with various police and heads of departments questioning the following:
1. The investigating officer put in charge had contact with the accused employers?
2. The investigating officer in charge was rude and abrupt and lack compassion.
3. The investigating officer in charge instructed her to go with him to interview the witnesses, this is against police protocol and the case was therefore thrown out of court.
4. We were promised that the case be taken away from that unit and handed over to National department. This did not happen. The same officer submitted the same file to the prosecutor, which could only mean that it would be thrown out of court again.
5. On our last meeting with representatives form the provincial department, under Captain Moonsami and we were told that the investigating officer was out of town, only to find him downstairs waiting for his colleagues.
6. The survivor was called into a meeting and told that she should pursue the case without my involvement

These two incidents are two out of many, we have lodged complaints with the Human rights commission as well as IPID: The Independent Police Investigative Directorate. To date we have not had any response. We have been in contact with NPA and still have not received any feedback but rather referrals.

Why does one individual have to go threw such a long process only to prove that she had been violated. We are promised by heads of departments that they would assist and eradicate the corruption as the survivor witness one of the officers of the court receiving R3000 from the rapist’s employers.

So in my frustration when I see police and government talking about the importance of 16 Days of activism I am confused.I’m confused as there words in many cases do not meet their actions.
Every year I attend the Jacaranda FM: Sisters with Blisters walk as it raises money for a reputable charity. This year after the walk I had a brief conversation with a young lady and her understating of the 16 Days of activism campaign was that during those 16 days, men were not suppose to beat or hurt women or children. Perhaps this is the understanding by many individuals. Its incredibly important to raise awareness around abuse and a lot more needs to be done from all angles, but perhaps the messaging should be, no violence at all!!!!

From now on I urge all individuals to stand up against abuse in any form, stand up to police who are supposed to be protecting us but choose to take the wrong path. On the subject of the police, I have stated two police stations in particular and like everything in life, there are both positive and negatives. There are many other stations that do act accordingly and many courts that worked and closed in favour of the survivors, we salute you.

I call on all men and women to stand up against abuse of all forms. If you know of a case where a survivor has been mistreated and you know of a police station who have done wrong or good, talk about it. Change is not going to happen by us complaining and not doing anything, change can occur with the support of many.

To those survivors, we stand with you, remember:
• It is not your fault.
• Stand tall and seek help in the form of counseling and support.
• Talk about it.
• Do not let anyone take away your power.

Rosie Motene
rosie@rosiemotene.biz
Twitter: @princessrtm
Facebook: Rosie Motene.
http://www.powa.co.za

A poem by Berry Heart from Botswana:
CHILD OF MY MOTHER
Berry Heart February 19th 2013
Dedicated to raped and murdered girls
Free verse recorded in My 2013 Charity Album Girl Power
My body is a moving coffin carrying dead bodies of girls inside
Every time a child is raped or dies
I feel the pain of how they lived in vain
This pain makes my brain membranes insane
This pain pierces through the puddles of rain
And between the letters of my name
If pain was sound you wouldn’t hear
For it will be louder to the human ear
When will girls own their bodies?
She asked with a twisted tongue tied to her teeth
Sometimes her ribs act like violin strings it seems
These eye bags are monuments of grief
Filth, red blood flowing between her shaking knees
Beneath his body
Fraying, praying to God saying ‘take me Lord’
The height of my spiritual insight
grows with tears n’ fears of a child
whose smile was never recognized
Last night I dreamt of her wearing a flowered dress
Yes! She wore her flowered dress when she disappeared
Yes! She wore her flowered dress when she was raped
Yes! She wore her flowered dress when her body was cut into pieces
the flowers on her dress melted in a pool of blood that escaped her body
I’m not impressed of your demise child of my mother
I see hear soundless heartbeat on highways
I see your restless soul chasing the birds in the sky
hoping to rest on their nests
And our hearts will always touch child of my mother
The pieces of her scattered soul
I bumped on to them last night
My eyes can never find
The right shape to cry
Minds knowing, hands holding arms folding
Looking at your body rotting
They call me names, a risk, a feminist
But I am anti rapist against child molestation and GBV
Like the sun awakens the earth’s core I’m the awakening
I am the beginning to the end of Gender Based Violence
It’s wise to know reasons why seasons spin clockwise
Rise and shine my mother says
But how can I when everything around me is a lie
And painfully blinds me to see the sun rise?
I play trombones and recites poems in homes to heal bleeding wounds
The pieces of her scattered soul I bumped on to them last night
She remembers the hardness of his chest as mahogany casket against her breasts
She feels his rhythm, beating in haunting images
I advised her to stop looking for sunlight inside a cave
I advised her to save her soul and pray to pave her way to heaven
Because the blue blanket above isn’t called heaven
its Berry Heart Poetry sown into blankets to clothe naked children
Our hearts will always touch child of my mother
They have angered God
His wrath falls like rain from the sky roof
He wants them to feel the same pain they cannot explain
In the seventh circle of hell they yell in pain
The dust from their feet scratching my window pane begging for pity
Our hearts will always touch child of my mother
I’ll always hold you like the moon in the palm of the sky
Ask God to turn all stones in Ethiopia into bread
Because stomachs of the children are touching spines
Yes, we call it poverty
Yes, we call it starvation
Yes, we call it hunger
Our heart will always touch child of my mother.
Berry Heart

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