Stretching the Sixteen Days to 365

Date: January 1, 1970
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The Sixteen Days of Activism campaign can only be meaningful if it is linked to a year long action plan to end gender violence, according to the South African-based advocacy group Gender Links. The following is the full text of GL?s statement to mark the end of the Sixteen Days of Activism campaign 2006:

“We do not subscribe to the view that such campaigns are a waste of money or time. Any activities that serve to heighten awareness must be encouraged and we are fortunate that NGOs have stretched the dates between International Day of No Violence Against Women (25 November) to 10 December (Human Rights) Day to sixteen days rather than just two.
However, such campaigns can only be meaningful if they are embedded within a multi sector programme to end gender violence that spans the whole year.  In this respect, we welcome the support shown by the Deputy Minister of Local Government Nomatyala Hangana for a National Action Plan to End Gender Violence. This initiative began with the drafting of such a plan at the “365 days of action to end gender violence” conference in May 2006. The task team established at the conference will be meeting this week to work on finalising this plan so that it can be launched in March 2007.
Such an approach is consistent with the recommendations in the recently released UN Secretary General’s report on violence against women and children, and with a trend in at least four other Southern African countries. The fact that South Africa has a draft in hand positions us well to move forward. However, such plans are only meaningful if genuine commitment prevails.     
During this year’s sixteen day campaign we were dismayed by manifestations of the gap between rhetoric and reality. A glaring example of this is the case involving the protection offered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the former ambassador to Malaysia after a disciplinary inquiry found him guilty of sexual harassment. The public defense of this position after the high court upheld the finding of the disciplinary inquiry is especially disturbing.   
This year, survivors of gender violence came out prominently to talk about their experiences and the sluggishness of the legal system. They led the Take Back the Night March, published a book of “I” Stories and spoke at public gatherings and in the media. We salute their courage.
The best way that the nation can offer women such as this some relief is to integrate the sixteen demands that they put forward into a meaningful action plan with measurable targets and indicators. This includes the passing and proper resourcing of the Sexual Offences Bill; provision of comprehensive and integrated services within reach of every woman who is violated; considerable improvement in the functioning of the criminal justice system in cases of gender violence and empowering women economically.

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