Scores of young women and men gathered at Green Point Lighthouse on Saturday November 9 for a walk against gender-based violence.
The walk, organised by the Chrysalis Youth Academy together with Western Cape on Wellness (WOW) aimed to raise awareness and commemorate victims of gender-based violence.
Started in 2000, Chrysalis Academy is a Western Cape provincial government initiative that aims to instil personal mastery, greater resilience, an enhanced skill set and access to a range of further learning opportunities including a 12-month work placement to acquire work experience. The academy runs a three-month residential programme for youth aged 18 to 25 from across the Western Cape.
Chrysalis Academy’s CEO, Lucille Meyer, said the challenge of violence against women and children has reached epidemic proportions. She said most women at the walk have experienced some form of gender-based violence.
“This is to remember every woman and all the children who have lost their lives in gender-based-violence. We are also doing it for many who aren’t able to be here today. We can only fight this in the community, together,” she said.
Sharing these sentiments, chairperson of the academy, Dr Marlene le Roux, who is also the CEO of the Artscape Theatre Centre, called on women to unite and fight together.
She said the country marks Women’s Day and the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign yet the violence increases over these particular days. She said the city needs to be main-streamed to be gender-friendly.
“Our parks needs to be safe. Our stations need to be safe, if I want to walk around the taxi rank with my short skirt, it’s my business and I need to feel safe. We need safe spaces for women and we need more women to get involved in the municipal town planning committees so we can address these issues,” she said.
Head of training and development at the academy, Janine Tenner, said they kicked off this month with this walk because they don’t only want the 16 Days of Activism campaign to be the only time that people call out violence because violence happens every day.
Ms Tenner said they are making a difference with the young people that they serve because she’s noticing more people are reporting abuse.
“We work with students who have been raped more than once, some have been gang raped and have never received counselling or therapeutic support to help them address the trauma,” she said.
She said this remains a challenge as they, at times, struggle to support all of the young people and the high level of trauma they experienced.
Ms Tenner said there’s excessive violence in the communities and the homes that the students come from. She said society needs to be more aware of gender-based violence and the reporting channels and the justice system needs to be able to address the issues appropriately in order for conviction to take place.
“We know it’s not about filling up jails, but it’s also about getting the behaviour to stop, addressing unemployment, drug abuse at community level and keeping communities clean and the lights on. We need to have spaces for young people to do meaningful activities that helps them to be connected,” she said.
Ms Tenner said the issue is multi-layered and complex and involves building up fathers, having fathers present and involved in the rearing of children. “We cannot ignore the economics of the situation that women do stay with men who abuse them because they need to provide for themselves and their children,”she said.
Nicola Peterson, 24, who joined the academy in September, said she lost her mother to gender-based violence. She said her mother was physically and emotionally abused by her stepfather and she suffered from depression. “With me, he was manipulative and abused me mentally and emotionally. I moved out after matric because I knew I wanted something better for myself. My mother stayed and I was her hope for a better future. One day she called me to come home and when I got there I found her, lying in the bathroom. She committed suicide. I wish she was here today so that she could see that I’m empowering women who are still in her situation,”she said.
Weighing in on the walk, Western Cape MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, said: “The significance of Saturday’s walk is that the Bravo 19 Chrysalis women could ‘raise their voices so that those without a voice can be heard’.
“This powerful walk demonstrated both the resilience and strength of the women in our society and the life changing work that Chrysalis Youth Academy, under the leadership of Dr Lucille Meyer, does in uplifting our youth.”