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16 days of Activism: A collaborative and coordinated approach to GBV epidemic

16 days of Activism: A collaborative and coordinated approach to GBV epidemic

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President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated the government's commitment to "place the problem of violence against women and children firmly on the national agenda" in his remarks at the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, held in Midrand, November 1-2.

In Ramaphosa's words: "There is still much work to be done."

While acknowledging the progress made in combating the pervasive gender-based violence in the nation, he also acknowledged a 52% rise in the number of women killed and a 46% rise in the number of children killed between the first quarters of 2021 and 2022.

Every year, from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) until December 10, there is a global campaign against violence against women and children (Human Rights Day). Government initiatives and promises have not stopped violence against women and children in the nation.

The Presidential Summit provided an opportunity to assess what is and is not effective in the fight against gender-based violence, as well as to recognise and draw attention to initiatives that are actually having a positive impact. The president also urged group effort, specifically urging the corporate sector to increase resource availability where it is most needed.

Is it true that the more things change, the more they remain the same as we approach the annual 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children? Cristianne Wendler, a strategic advisor at Shout-It-Now, a local non-profit organisation in South Africa that encourages young people to own their sexuality, posed this query.

To demonstrate the power of technology, the organisation said it had launched a new free WhatsApp-based chatbot service called Chomi in August ahead of the summit.

Chomi leverages basic technology to provide survivors of gender-based violence and anyone who wants to support a victim with crucial information, expert-backed counselling, and service recommendations. The chatbot's goal is to empower survivors with knowledge and choices while also making prevention as easy as possible.

Being multilingual and offering support in Setswana and isiXhosa in addition to English and isiZulu makes Chomi special.

Chomi's technology isn't very expensive or cutting-edge, but it works well and, most importantly, is focused on the needs of survivors. We saw a chance to invest in this technology, and as a result, it is aiding in the nation's fight against the scourge of gender-based violence, according to Wendler.

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16 days of Activism: A collaborative and coordinated approach to GBV epidemic
Because North West and Gauteng are the provinces where Shout-It-Now works, social workers there will currently get in touch with Chomi users who ask to be connected to support services there directly. Picture: shoutitnow_sa/Instagram

"We're urging the private sector to join forces with us to enhance Chomi's capabilities so that it can supply services in additional languages and to build an integrated network of service providers that will make referrals and service delivery across the nation easier. We require funds in order for all of this to occur.

Because North West and Gauteng are the provinces where Shout-It-Now works, social workers there will currently get in touch with Chomi users who ask to be connected to support services there directly.

The 24/7 nationwide helplines will be recommended to users in other provinces. With more money, Shout-It-Now can collaborate with NGOs in other areas to create a countrywide network of service providers that can assist survivors with support in real time.

The ability to choose and receive information on one's terms and at one's own pace gives many young people, especially the tech-savvy youth, the preference to be reached through various tech-enabled platforms like Chomi, according to research.

Every survivor has different needs. Thus it's crucial to provide them with choices. While some people feel at ease speaking with others in person, others find it scary. Many survivors never receive the assistance and care they require as a result of their fear, which includes dread of the unknown, fear of being judged or blamed, and fear of having to report.

This is the reason Chomi was created, according to Wendler, "so that anyone can acquire pertinent information regarding gender-based violence anonymously without having to speak to, or interact with, another person."

Wendler contends that by arming someone with knowledge and choices, you can begin to lessen their fear and let them know they are not alone, which should give them the confidence to ask for help when they are ready and if necessary.

“The basic line is that we need solutions in the battle against gender-based violence, and technology provides us solutions we've never had before. Chomi is evidence that, with the use of technology, we may develop novel, survivor-centred strategies that have the potential to reach a large number of people who might not have used conventional in-person services. We need to keep pushing for novel approaches that stop gender-based violence and provide survivors with the support they require,” adds Wendler.

Shout-It-Now is urging the public to heed President Ramaphosa's appeal for "all of us to play our part" as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign gets underway on November 25. The nation can work together to put an end to violence against women and children in South Africa with coordinated effort and sufficient funding.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.

Original Article

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