Women Workers and Students Advocating for Protection from Sexual Assault and Violence in South Africa
Capacity Building & Leadership, Global Health, Women, Youth & Children
Denise Raquel Dunning, PhD, MPA
In 2020-21, Rise Up leaders in South Africa aimed to protect workers and students from violence at work and in schools.
Despite South African laws which prohibit any form of sexual harassment or violence in the workplace, a 2018 survey found that at least 30% of women experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. In 2020, Rise Up Leader Hameeda Deedat was acting executive director of the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI) and spearheaded their work advocating for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Executive Committee, Gender Committee, and affiliates to adopt a comprehensive workplace-based gender-based violence (GBV) strategy. They called for a strategy that addresses all forms of GBV in the workplace nationwide, which would protect the health and wellbeing of over 500,000 women workers across South Africa.
School-based violence against South African girls is also a national problem. According to the South African Democratic Teachers Union, there are approximately 72,000 incidents of school-based violence each month nationwide. Rise Up Leader Nomzamo Gcwensa is founder and executive director of The Bold Empowered Affirmed Revived (BEAR) Foundation, which found that a 2015 National School Safety Framework was inadequately implemented in Diepsloot, an area of 350,00 mostly low-income South Africans.
The BEAR Foundation’s aim was to develop a sustainable local accountability structure to ensure improvement, consistency, and accountability of school-based support teams in order to reduce and prevent school-related violence in thirteen Diepsloot schools. Within its first year, 4,522 primary and secondary female students will gain access to psychosocial support services. Overall, approximately 9,000 students will be positively impacted with the goal of reducing school violence by 10%.
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