The tense two-day Presidential Summit on GBV has concluded in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. The summit was meant to reflect on the work undertaken since the first Summit, in 2018. Femicide and related issues were high on the agenda.
The first day, Monday [October 31], was off to a bumpy start when activists lashed out at government officials for not doing enough to tackle what the president himself previously described as a “pandemic”. More than 800 women and nearly 250 children were killed in South Africa between April and June.
On Tuesday, community activist and academic Dr. Lubna Nadvi said activists attending the Summit were disgruntled over the lack of action against GBV. They insisted they should be allowed an opportunity to be heard, until organisers gave them the platform.
“There have been hundreds of women who have been killed and lost their lives. The anger is very real and people in yesterday’s [Monday’s] session were refusing to be silent. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of raw pain, and those men and women spoke because men are also part of the solution to the issues. It’s been very intense,” she said.
Delivering the keynote address at the summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa himself conceded that his administration had not dealt with the issue with enough urgency.
“We need to plan together, implement together and account together. We owe this to the women of our country. We owe it to all who have been victims of the scourge of gender-based violence,” he said.
Activists at the Presidential Summit on GBV sought accountability for shortcomings since the First Presidential Summit on GBV, which took place more than four years ago.
One of the key issues was the government’s failure to set up a Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council. The Council was meant to implement a National Strategic Plan (NSP) to deal with the issue of GBV and femicide.
“A lot of the questions that were being asked particularly of the president and the ministers were around why that Council has not been set up and why other strategies and structures that should have been put into place have not actually happened,” said Nadvi.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa once again promised quicker action in setting up the council.
“Now, piloting this act has taken far too long because the council at the end could not really be fully set up without the legislative instrument. And now, we will make sure we move quicker. We have a council set up and a full machinery set up,” he said.
Another prominent topic was sources of funding, she said. Activists sought to find out what happened to the funding that had been previously promised, among other vows from officials.
“One needs to remember that the First Summit happened quite a few years ago. There had been a lot of promises made about what was going to happen in this time,” she said.
The Second Presidential Summit on GBV did, however, show signs of progress. This was clear in the number of male activists and organisations who have acknowledged the role of men in GBV.
Nadvi said the cyclical nature of domestic abuse was acknowledged by a growing number of people. She said progress had been made.
“Men have acknowledged that they are a part of the solution and that there are many of both groups that have emerged; men-specific groups are working with younger men and boys to [create] the kind of society where there’s respect for girls and women and there’s respect between men and women. That’s the kind of society we want to create and that is the conversation that’s happening here as well,” she said.
At the same time, Nadvi said, there were socio economic issues such as poverty and inequality that were contributing to GBV. She said these needed to be addressed as part-and-parcel of the fight against GBV.
“[There are] a lot of social problems – poverty and inequality is one of them. People growing up in socio-economic circumstances where there’s a lot of poverty and deprivation, women very often stay in abusive relationships because they have no other finances. Social inequality is a key factor that enables GBV,” she said.
Nadvi said: “It has to be a holistic solution and that’s the kind of thing we’re also talking about. Because this is a Presidential Summit, there’s accountability that is being demanded from the government because they committed to delivering on these various things.”