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Historic Mobilisation: Faith Leaders Pledge to Combat Gender Violence and Femicide


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Historic Mobilisation: Faith Leaders Pledge to Combat Gender Violence and Femicide

Historic Mobilisation: Faith Leaders Pledge to Combat Gender Violence and Femicide

1st December 2023


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As South Africa commemorates 25 years since initiating the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, a renewed approach to the scourge critical, reports Bhekisisa Mncube.

In a landmark move, the Faith Action to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Collective, an interfaith coalition committed to eradicating GBV and femicide, has unveiled their Joint Statement of Commitment and Signature Campaign. This ground-breaking initiative represents a collective pledge to actively engage in collaborative efforts aimed at eradicating GBV and achieving the goals set forth in the National Strategic Plan to End GBV and Femicide.


The collective's unity prayer, led by Dr Fikile Vilakazi, Director of the Gender Equity Unit at the University of the Western Cape and Founder of the Ikhwelo Healers Collective, encapsulated the collective desire for change and healing. Her powerful words echoed hroughout the venue, calling for divine support in uniting hearts and spirits against gender- based violence.

Dr Vilakazi's message was clear: "We are wounded people; we need a revolution of love; let's be the voice of that revolution." This declaration captured the essence of the collective's mission.


She highlighted the urgent need to address spiritual violence within the faith sector, specifically the abuse perpetrated by trainers (oGobela) against initiates, including instances where initiates have been raped in the name of their ancestors. Emphasising a vision for the future, she declared the possibility of a world free from gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), underscoring the collective's commitment to making this vision a reality.

The Interfaith Movement for Sustained ACTION to END Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, held at the Emseni Centre in Benoni last month served as a day of commitment and a platform for shared learning and mutual support. The event brought together faith representatives from Islam, Hinduism, Baha'i, African Traditional Religion, Reformed Judaism, Buddhism, Brahma Kumaris, and Christianity, marking a significant step in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Ms. Daniela Gennrich, Coordinator of the We Will Speak Out South Africa (WWSOSA) Coalition's Secretariat to the Faith Action Collective, spoke of a new beginning. Emphasising the gravity of the situation in South Africa, she stated, "The prevalence statistics of gender- based violence and femicide show that we are a country at war with ourselves." Gennrich emphasised, "This campaign isn't just another fleeting trend; it's about igniting a passion for real change." She highlighted the stark reality of gender-based violence in South Africa, noting, "We are a country at war with ourselves. Gender violence isn't an external issue; our members are both survivors and perpetrators." She called on the faith community to respond, "We must listen to the cries of survivors and learn together, fostering a community that heals, grows, and embodies our faith and love."

Dr Nontando Hadebe, an African Feminist Theologian and the International Coordinator for Side by Side, evoked a 'Kairos Moment' signifying 'the right, critical, or opportune moment' at the interfaith event, referencing the significant 1985 Kairos Document. This document,
crafted by black South African theologians from Soweto, was a pivotal theological response to the apartheid regime. It embodied contextual and liberation theology, resonating globally in Latin America, Europe, Zimbabwe, India, and Palestine.

Dr Hadebe emphasised the urgent need for action, drawing parallels with the Sankofa bird to symbolise the retrieval of unity from the faith action against apartheid. She highlighted, "It is time to transform, dismantle and replace," acknowledging the ongoing journey towards gender justice. Her appeal for inclusivity extended to inviting men, who are not all perpetrators, and including the LGBTQ+ and disability sectors, reinforcing the commitment
to a diverse and inclusive approach.

Prof. Fatima Seedat, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of African Feminist Studies at the University of Cape Town and Co-Director of the Centre for Contemporary Islam, has emphasised the critical importance of addressing gender-based violence (GBV) with utmost seriousness in society.

She highlighted that effectively tackling GBV is unattainable if those working in the field, whether in the faith sector or more broadly, are
required to do so voluntarily. Prof. Seedat advocates for sustained action to eradicate GBV, stressing the necessity of dedicated "time and energy" to this crucial issue.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches and Retired Bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church, equated the battle against gender violence to running a marathon, emphasising the need for reinterpretation of sacred texts. He stressed that winning this battle requires the right 'gear', comparing proper running shoes to creating a conducive environment for activism and a hydration pack to maintaining perseverance.

His critique of patriarchy highlighted its role in hindering humanity's full potential, as it subjugates women. Drawing inspiration from interfaith leaders who stood against apartheid, Bishop Mpumlwana called for a united front in this enduring struggle, symbolized by essentials like the right shoes, hydration, and first aid, akin to Thuthuzela Care Centres.

Meanwhile, Mr Mlingane Poswayo, Director of the Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs, emphasized the genderless nature of our souls, underlining the importance of united action in faith. He stated, "Faith without action is meaningless," highlighting the necessity for a unified voice within the faith community. Poswayo praised the unveiling of the Joint Statement of Commitment and Signature Campaign, terming it a "success in itself." He also called for humility, criticizing the 'holier-than-thou' attitude prevalent in some faith circles as counterproductive.

This event marks a pivotal moment in the history of faith-based activism against gender- based violence in South Africa. The collective's commitment to combatting GBVF transcends religious boundaries, underscoring the power of unity in addressing societal challenges. The Faith Action to End GBV Collective remains dedicated to this cause, advocating for change and healing across all communities. Please sign the petition and make your voice heard.


Written by Bhekisisa Mncube. Mncube is an author of three acclaimed books, award-winning columnist and a rape
survivor turned activist against gender-based violence is also a volunteer at Faith Action to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Collective.


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