“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”
Such was the sentiment hanging in the air when the Diepsloot Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Forum launched in 2018. Both state and non-state actors working side by side, deeply committed to ensuring a coordinated approach to reducing levels of GBV in Diepsloot, and, to improve welfare, health and justice services provision in the community. One of the key focus areas for the GBV Forum is to raise awareness in the community.
To accomplish that objective, the Forum planned an Anti-Rape March to take place on 31 May 2019. The intention was to ensure that the message was spread far and wide through the use of various channels to communicate our message. One such mobilisation strategy was a door-to-door campaign where over 100 service providers armed with informative leaflets contended with some problematic attitudes from the community, including men who argued that “GBV is an unsolvable problem and no amount of awareness raising can stop rape” and that “only children can be raped, the rest are attention seekers.”
The women community members spoken to expressed anger and mistrust towards the criminal justice system saying that reporting cases is pointless since they “don’t go anywhere.” The sense that the criminal justice system fails to hold rapists accountable seemed prevalent amongst residents. Undeterred by this backlash, the campaigners continued to engage community members and extend an invitation to participate in the planned Anti-Rape March.
In addition to the door-to-door campaign, print and broadcast media were also used to disseminate information. For example, LvA utilised Sloot.FM, a local community radio station, to educate community members on GBV issues and to shape and inform public discussions leading up to the March. Written media was also engaged with local newspapers such as Diepsloot’s Township News, Fourways Review and Midrand Reporter, as well as Daily Sun, which is South Africa’s biggest daily newspaper, reporting on the March.
Fortified with pamphlets, banners, loud hailer and singing voices, the campaigners convened for the March on 31 May 2019 at the taxi rank in Diepsloot, Extension 1. Accompanied by police vans and drill officers, we marched through the streets of Diepsloot to the Mashamplan informal settlement, with scores of community members joining along the way. The Mashamplan informal settlement was intentionally selected to serve as the ending point for the March as it has one of the highest percentages of reported rape cases in Diepsloot according to Diepsloot Police. At this site, GBV Forum Members addressed community members in attendance, sharing information about services provided and answering any questions that arose. Most importantly, this event showed solidarity with survivors of sexual violence by reminding them that they are not alone. GBV in all its forms is a solvable problem and together we can eradicate it.