“Imagine not being able to take a morning run, not being able to wear your favourite shirt, not being able to go to the post office. Imagine not being able to live freely and always feel confined because your body and its politics are those of others. Now imagine being a woman in South Africa.
For centuries, women in this country have fought for their seat at the table of basic human decency. By protesting and standing up for each other, for themselves but especially for the next generation who must endure the harsh realities of a patriarchal world. Since the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, it became extremely evident that women and girls are safe nowhere, especially in their households as numbers of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) have drastically increased.
Our hearts break at BRAVE as a female-led initiative that supports girls through the most challenging and transformative periods in their lives. It is important that we protect them. As the world experienced COVID-19, many experienced more than one pandemic. In the first week of the lockdown, The Minister of Police reported a 30% increase in gender-based violence reporting. Police records reveal that more than 100 women are raped each day in South Africa and the numbers are increasingly terrifying. The BRAVE Junior Girls are from impoverished communities such as Manenberg. They not only have to battle poverty but also a COVID-19 pandemic, that very visibly brought to light the need for proper health care and necessary tools needed to equip girls to successfully complete the school year. These girls had to either experience or witness GBV, but most importantly the likelihood of the accuser being the breadwinner in the house.
As a young woman, I am filled with fear when I realize that I live in a time where the late Uyinene was brutally raped and murdered in a post office. We are the same age; both our intersectionalities are at the forefront. we both had and have dreams, but they can be taken away the minute a man discovers that he wants to own my body. I live in fear as I cannot walk alone at any time of the day. My two friends and I decided to go out one Saturday and as we left the restaurant, a man approached me and he insisted on my contact details and the only way I could escape him was to pretend that my friend and I were in a relationship. Yes, I live in a time where the only way for a man to leave me alone, is his fear of another man, not me.
At BRAVE we understand, because we experience these things ourselves, and we fight back. The BRAVE Senior Leaders are aware that we must live our entire lives with our intersectionality being at the forefront. As another day of our lives feels like another day we are violated, as it seems like our rights are constantly denied.
Since the start of lockdown, the BRAVE team has continued working with the Junior Girls, who as young adolescents are often most at-risk. We are developing a clearly constructed and analyzed curriculum to help the girls cope with the challenges they face. We talk openly about their mental health and help them strengthen their educational foundation to go back to school prepared. During the last few months, the senior leaders did continuous check-ins with the girls, as well as provided much-needed therapeutic sessions. The BRAVE team risked their lives to deliver essentials such as food, stationery, and sanitary towels to the junior girls. We want to be that constant voice that reminds the girls – and their community and families – how very important they are. That their lives matter and should not be taken away so inhumanely. We advocate for them to help them stand in the front lines without fear.”
– Miche Williams, Senior Leader, BRAVE
BRAVE Rock Girl started in 2011 to create safe spaces for girls in South Africa. It empowers girls to stay in school and encourages women to become economically independent and live healthy, risk-free lives. Through BRAVE Rock Girl’s initiatives, girls gain the self-confidence and skills needed to become agents of social change.
This letter has been penned by Miche Williams as part of EMpower’s #16Days16Ways campaign against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and intended to highlight the unique approaches of our grantee partners in addressing GBV.