Prevention in Action - Working Together to Prevent Violence Against Women. 20/10/2016

Published by SAFERSPACES

In communities like Lavender Hill and Vrygrond, domestic
violence seems omnipresent. The "Prevention in Action" campaign recently
educated community members on domestic violence and empowered them to
become activists in making their communities safer places.

According to government statistics every sixth woman in South Africa
regularly experiences domestic violence. Nevertheless true numbers are
difficult, if not impossible to identify since a lot of incidents happen
behind closed doors or in private spaces and recur without ever being
reported.

If you ask Lavender Hill’s residents though, domestic violence seems
omnipresent. It would be difficult to find somebody who doesn’t at least
know one woman who has been affected or is a victim herself. Even
though men also become victims of domestic violence, it’s mostly women
who suffer from abusive male partners.

In a community like Lavender Hill, where gangs, drugs and violence
are a way of life, and it’s especially dangerous for women, it seems
even more important to have a safe home or private space that offers
shelter and warmth. If women face abuse in their own homes, where can
they still be safe?

In order to make Lavender Hill a safer place, the local community
organisation New World Foundation (NWF) organised a five-day training
about prevention of violence against women (VAW) which was facilitated
by two women activists of the campaign “Prevention in Action” from
Durban. The goal was to educate selected community members on domestic
violence and empower them to become activists of the campaign themselves
and implement the concept in Lavender Hill and Vrygrond.

 

The first day comprised a combination of participants from Lavender
Hill and Vrygrond. Stakeholders including the police, the clinics, the
courts and the community police forum sent representative staff members
to learn about this violence prevention model. Also two partner
organisations of NWF with eight representatives participated on the
first two days to get information on the campaign. 47 attended in total
on day 1 while the training continued with 28 participants, 25 women and
three men, who trained for the full five days.

 

What keeps domestic violence alive in this community of Lavender Hill
and Vrygrond? The participants tried to get to the bottom of this key
question in several plenum discussions.
People are aware that it’s wrong to be beaten, kicked or spit at by
their intimate partner, that insulting, blackmailing or forcing them to
have sex, just as damage to their property are different types of
domestic violence and reason enough to lay charges against their
partners at court.

It’s not a lack of knowledge that keeps domestic violence alive. It
rather seems to be social norms, a lack of financial support and trust
in the justice systems in addition to excessive alcohol and drug abuse
within the home. And most importantly: silence. Silence of victims and
of the community as a whole driven by fear and shame and the absurd fact
that violence against women is normal.

This is where the “Prevention in Action”- campaign and training steps
in. Its goal is to transform a way of inaction into a way of action.

Put into practice the concept unfolds as followed: The training
participants now called “Community Engager” gained knowledge to go into
their community to recruit five to ten so-called “Community Influencers”
in the following weeks and form “Prevention in Action Groups”. These
will then organise different actions to call the attention to domestic
violence and prevent violence against women (VAW).

The first actions already took place during the course of the
training. In co-operation with the aftercare program at NWF, the
community engagers organised a prayer walk through Lavender Hill in
memory of all the lost lives during the latest shootings. Wearing their
Prevention in Action t-shirts and carrying their signs calling for
violence free zones the training participants attracted lots of
attention in the community. Curious faces appeared behind curtains and
fences, some even joined in the march. A great start for the campaign in
Lavender Hill!

 

An important part of the training was the walk through the community to
identify so-called “hot-spots”. Those are the areas most affected by
crime and violence. In a first step the activists will clean up these
areas then transform them with colourful paint into visible “violence
free zones”. The whole community will be mobilized to help. All
following actions are in the hands of the community engagers.

 

Everything starts at their own homes though, their flats and their
streets. By putting up colourful signs the activists marked and declared
their flats to be “violent free homes”.

Throughout the week the participants didn’t only learn about domestic
violence and practiced in role plays how to recruit “Community
Influencers”, they also played educational and life skills games
together and shared personal experiences about domestic violence which
created a strong bond between the participants.

The activists will and have already faced some difficulties trying to
recruit more people to become part of the campaign. Besides lots of
positive feedback they’ve received, not everyone seems to be sharing the
same enthusiasm for the idea of the campaign, others are simply too
afraid to openly fight for women’s rights or even their own rights.

The movement still needs to grow and prosper in Lavender Hill and
Vrgrond. A strong support team motivating one another is therefore
essential. Currently, the support team comprises of the community
engagers, Lynette Oliver (Women Centre Coordinator), Kim Pillay (Deputy
Director) and Rebecca Lenz (Volunteer) of NWF and the community
coordinators of the Street and Court Committees the latter of who are
well accustomed to violence prevention work in their communities
already.

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Strength does not come from physical
capacity; it comes from an indomitable will.” A will, that each and
every one of the training’s participants share: to make Lavender Hill
and Vrygrond safer places than they are today.