We observe Women’s Day on 9 August to commemorate the impact of the women’s march to the Pretoria Union Buildings in 1956. For the remaining 30 days of the month, however, there’s nothing to be proud of. In fact, 365 days a year, seven days a week, women and gender non-binary people are persecuted in South Africa.
We have high-level politicians and policy-makers getting away with publicly and privately assaulting women. Femicide and intimate partner violence are normalised and entrenched. There’s a rape culture that reinforces the idea that sexual abuse, harassment and violence against women and non-binary people is okay because our bodies are for the taking. Patriarchy is deeply embedded in South Africa, throughout institutions and communities, with consequences that impact our daily safety and empowerment.
Given that we have to navigate all these barriers, the concept of Women’s Month feels more like a platitude or consolation prize than an opportunity to shift the collective consciousness.
Gender-based violence is one of the biggest threats facing the country
According to Stats SA and the South African Medical Research Council, violence against women is still one of the largest dangers we face – and not enough has been done by the government to stamp it out. One in five women has experienced violence at the hands of a partner, with the Eastern Cape reporting the highest rate of physical abuse. And more than six percent of women over 18 surveyed have experienced sexual violence. The survey also showed that among the women who had experienced violence, vulnerable women in the lowest income bracket, with little to no education, are most at risk.
A group of activists working under the name #TheTotalShutdown has formed its own radical resistance movement. The group was created by activists to elevate the voices of survivors and victims still trapped in cycles of violence, and form our own resistance to gender-based violence.
The closed group has more than 100 000 members and is for women and enby (non-binary) people only. The posts from hundreds of community members reveal harrowing stories of the prevalence of misogyny. It’s triggering and it’s painful, but having a community who hears, believes and will march with you to say we’ve had enough is empowering
What are the objectives of #TheTotalShutdown?
The group is dedicated to intersectionality and creating mass political, social and economic action through a nationwide protest and shutdown.
‘We have nothing to celebrate on 9 August,’ writes the movement’s statement. ‘Every week, we receive multiple reports of women, children and gender-nonconforming [GNC] people who have been brutally murdered, kidnapped or abused, and there is no sense of urgency from our leaders to find ways in which society can tackle this violence.
‘Women, the LGBTQIA+ community, children and GNC people keep dying at the hands of men in South Africa, and something needs to be done. We call on all women and GNC people to stay away from work and join the protest on 1 August 2018 in their respective provinces, universities and colleges and not buy anything on the day.’
Women make up more than half the population and we’re a vital part of the small-business sector. Small businesses and the ‘informal’ economy are the bread and butter of job creation and social development. #TotalShutDown aims to highlight that women have power over this important part of the economy, and that if every woman and enby person refused to buy any products or contribute to the economy in any way, including going to work, the country could come to a halt.
For people who cannot participate in the stay-away, there will also be a moment, between 1pm and 1.30pm, where protestors will stand together in a moment of solidarity for survivors, the gravity of collective action brings about change.
Ultimately, a memorandum of demands will be handed over to the three branches of government – the Legislature in Parliament, Cape Town, the Judiciary at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein and the Executive at the Union Buildings – and other provincial structures to take action against gender-based violence.
If you want to get involved, you can do so in the following ways:
1 Join the conversation on social media
This is the link to the Facebook group (for women and enby folks only): Facebook.Com/Groups/449268378857683/About/
NB: Cisgendered men are NOT included in the organising, mobilising and action of this shutdown, protest or group. Please respect us and join the Facebook group and #paybackthemoney if you want to see how you can get involved.
2. Join the protest
Join the marchers in staying away from work on 1 August 2018. Protestors will wear black with a touch of red as a symbol of mourning and support for victims and survivors of GBV. Before you march, you HAVE to register over here.
3. You can donate
Account name: Rise-up Against Gender-based violence
Account no: 62770771246
Branch code: 250655
References: Donation and your name
For more information with regards to the Intersectional March against Gender-Based Violence and on the march routes/meeting points, find the movement on Twitter @womenprotestsa and on Facebook using the hashtag #thetotalshutdown.