Child Protection Week starts today, and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone is hosting a campaign, Help #ChangeHerStory.
The campaign comes as gender-based violence and crimes against women and children have sparked outrage and despair, with some organisations calling it a crisis.
“Statistics in South Africa show three women die every day at the hands of their intimate partners and it is estimated a woman is raped every 13 minutes. One in five children experiences sexual violence before 18,” said Shaheema McLeod, director of the centre. “Through the launch of Help #ChangeHerStory we aim to raise awareness around the unacceptably high level of gender-based violence.”
Zeenat Osman, child counsellor at the centre, said it was always painful to hear children’s stories. "We educate them about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and help them understand no one has a right to abuse them and being violated is not normal as many think.
"Our shelter accommodates 100 women and their children at a time. They generally stay 16 weeks, during which we assist with child care and job skills training – empowering them to become economically and emotionally independent.”
Through a crowdfunding page, www.thundafund.com/project/changeherstory, South Africans are invited to help to #ChangeHerStory.
President Jacob Zuma has also called on South Africans to use Child Protection Week to expose and condemn acts of abuse of women and children.
Addressing diplomats in Pretoria, President Zuma urged citizens to condemn and act against gender based violence
Domestic violence is regarded as the leading cause of murder of women and abuse of children.
“Let us use this week to increase the awareness of despicable and painful attacks and abuse of women and children that have taken place in our country in recent weeks. We must work with the law enforcement agencies to prevent the attacks and also to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”
Violence against women and children also hits very close to home for Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Briefing journalists ahead of his budget vote in Parliament on Tuesday, Mbalula also spoke of seeing his own sister being abused by her berk.
He also had harsh words for women, urging them to leave abusive relationships during his third visit to Elsies River on Thursday.
“I’ve said to the police, no police station must turn a woman away.
“Once a boyfriend klaps you, you must run away, (because) once you allow him to klap you every week, (it will continue) up until you see death.
“I want to say, once someone moers you, that person doesn’t love you.”