16 Days of Activism seminars and cyber dialogues

Date: December 9, 2010
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The Sixteen Days of Activism is a global campaign which takes place from 25 November to 10 December annually, to raise awareness around gender-based violence. Gender Links will extend its Soccer 2010 theme, Score a goal for gender equality: Halve gender based violence by 2015, and the SADC Gender Protocol targets, to the Sixteen Days of Activism this year.

Part of this campaign involves seminars at GL’s Johannesburg office as well as online cyber dialogues to connect gender activists worldwide.

Gender Links, through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre, invites you to participate in the dialogues, the cyber dialogues will be available in different languages. Please join the relevant language room between 13h00 and 14h00 SA time. The table below includes dates, topics and language rooms available each day.

9 December: GBV and local government
English, French, Sotho, Nguni languages, Shona

10 December: Human rights- political accountasbility
English, French, Nguni languages

To log into the chat facility, go to: http://gemcommunity.genderlinks.org.za/chat-service.phpˬEnter a user name, and click on the language room of your choice. Alternatively, contact Jennifer Elle Lewis at GMDCManager@genderlinks.org.za a day prior to the conversation.

Did you miss out on any of the events? If so, read about past 16 Days events below:

Is the media is part of the problem or solution?

A recent study has found that more than three quarters of South African men have admitted to perpetrating violence at some point in their life, leading some to accuse the media of not doing enough to put an end to gender-based violence.

As the 16 Days of Activism kicked off this year, Gender Links and the Mail & Guardian hosted a critical thinking forum that posed the question: “Gender Violence: is the media part of the problem or solution?À at the   Johannesburg Country Club on 24 November 2010.

The panel included Colleen Lowe Morna (Executive Director of Gender Links), Thabo Leshilo (Editor of The Sowetan newspaper), Mbuyiselo A. Botha (Sonke Gender Justice) and Rachel Jewkes (Medical Research Council). The event was moderated by Lisa Vetten, an expert around issues of violence against women.

Panellists were divided on the question: Is media part of the problem or part of the solution? À“ finding that the answer is, well, both.

While the media has certainly perpetuated unethical reporting on GBV, it also has a key role to play in changing attitudes and therefore diminishing the frightening statistics of violence against women, especially after the preliminary findings of the Gender Based Violence Indicators Study, quoted above. At the event, issues such as stereotypes, portrayal of women, and media monitoring were discussed in regard to why GBV is so prevalent in the country.

The recent Jules High School case, in which a young woman and three young men were involved in a sex act which was captured on cell phone video, was also touched upon, with most arguing that it is a watershed moment in South Africa’s GBV debate. It served as a powerful example of how the media is unethical in their coverage of cases of GBV.

Colleen Lowe Morna stated: “I think the media can go back to simple, ethical principles. Journalism 101. I was taught that the media was fair and that ‘who feels it knows it’. Go to who feels it and ask them how they feel. In Jules High, what voice was given the most credit?À

Students learn about GBV and the Internet

If you want to know about the Internet, talk to me. I live on the Internet.
– Claire Fabre, age 12

Today’s children are tomorrow’s future and many South African children like Fabre spend hours online, every day, preparing for their future in a way their parent’s would not recognise.

Gender Links understands the amazing learning potential (and oftentimes negative influence) of the internet, which is why at the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism it brought young students together to discuss the Jules High School incident and the impact of the world wide web.

On 29 November, approximately 30 participants gathered at Gender Links to discuss GBV and the Internet. The diverse group mostly comprised young people from Sacred Heart School in Observatory and the Khunumani Support Group in Soweto.

Simphiwe Shabalala spoke about the work of Khunumani, which consists of art and performance art. Jennifer Elle Lewis of the Gender and Media Diversity Centre discussed the power of new media tools such as MXit and Facebook, noting the potential dangers of the internet, including online trafficking. The recent Jules High School case was widely discussed in connection to the various risks posed by Internet and cell-phone technology.

Youth present were surprised to learn about these dangers and, when asked, very few knew about Facebook privacy settings or the Jules High incident.

However, some of the young people were incredibly internet and IT savvy. Thando Hlatswayo, 19, spoke about how he uses MXit for positive purposes after learning about it at Khunumani Support Group. Claire Fabre, 12, spoke about how she loves the internet. “If I want to see pictures of bunnies, I just type it into Google,À she said.À

Claire also noted the generation gap, telling her peers that her mother is still not quite internet literate.

Afroes: transformational games employee Phil Groman demonstrated their interactive video game about child abuse, which was designed with the support of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. The game highlights different scenarios of abuse. Each threat is cleverly disguised, at first not visible to the hero or heroine making his or her way through the online collision course.

Following the presentations and discussions, the audience continued the conversation through the Gender Links Cyber Dialogue platform. At the end of the day, the group did not want to leave. Many of the kids were already playing the Afroes video game and talking about online safety. Let’s hope they go forward and tell their peers about what they learned.

A dialogue on sexual orientation and GBV

In most African societies, homosexuality, or any sexuality that deviates from heterosexuality is considered an offence. This attitude has lead to social repression in the form of verbal abuse, hate crimes, “corrective rapeÀ of lesbians, honour-related violence, forced marriage and even anti-gay legislation.
Across the continent, there have been waves of homophobic incidents. In Malawi, where discussing sex is taboo, an attempted marriage by a gay couple was labelled a matter of “gross indecency.” In Nigeria, northern Muslim states enforce the death penalty for homosexuality, and in Senegal, bodies of gay men have been removed from Muslim cemeteries.

Scott Long, Human Rights Watch director for gay issues, says anti-gay sentiment in Africa soared about 15 years ago when Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe started “manipulating the issue for political gain.” Mugabe, who has called gays “worse than dogs and pigs,” latched onto the issue to distract attention from economic and political crises and rally political support.

To compound matters, government leaders remain silent about such incidents of extreme prejudice. Whilst it is legal for same-sex partners to marry in South Africa, such laws are meaningless in the face of ongoing gender-based killings.  The “corrective rapeÀ of lesbians is a testament to this disjuncture between legislation and lived reality. To date, lesbians continue to be marginalised despite many organisations purporting to represent them.

The experiences of Southern African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) groups have shown that it is crucial that LGBTI groups and others engage the media, government, faith-based and human rights organisations in securing the non-discrimination of sexual minorities.

To learn more about Gender Links 16 Days of Activism events, click here.
To read Gender Links 16 Days of Activism strategy, click here.

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