More than 500 children and teachers, from two local primary schools, took to the streets in a solidarity march through Pietermaritzburg on Friday, 25 November, kicking off the Girls ACT (Awareness Campaign Tour) to mark the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Children. The march against child abuse was organized by Lifeline PMB in collaboration with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
“The march was definitely a success” says Lungile Makhonza of Lifeline PMB. “It was important that children sent this message themselves,” Makhonza explained. “We created a platform and they stepped up. We feel that when children speak out about issues as serious as child abuse, the community stops and pays attention.”
Data collected by Lifeline PMB’s gender-based violence programme reveals disturbing statistics. The information – which was drawn from five districts within the province of KwaZulu-Natal during the 2015/16 financial year – states that 3 293 new rape cases were reported. An alarming 65% of the total number were children under the age of 18 years old. Seventy-five percent of these children were younger than 12 years of age.
“This is a clear indication that we have an urgent crisis that needs to be addressed,” Makhonza said.
Lifeline PMB collaborated with AHF to host the solidarity march because of AHF’s track record of advocacy around HIV and gender-based violence.
“We were impressed by the Silent Protests and Keep the Promise march and concert organized by AHF band wanted to work with them on this event,” Makhonza said. “As Lifeline PMB we feel that the voices of our children are not being heard and AHF was the ideal partner to help amplify these children’s voices as they are a skilled advocacy and healthcare organisation.”
Pupils and teachers from Esigodini and Edendale Primary Schools took part in the solidarity march, with pupils also performing poetry and short drama pieces highlighting violence against children. Government, civil society and non-profit organisations supported the event, including the Siyanqoba Community Media Trust, Incema Organisation (who work with young offenders), Childline, the National Prosecuting Authority, KZN Department of Health, Sakhingomso, Future Leaders, Rape Crisis and the deputy mayor of Pietermaritzburg.
GIRLS ACT, which is the theme for the integrated AHF programme of action (marking activities for the 16 Days to End Violence campaign) moves to Imvaba Sports Field in Inanda on Saturday 26 November for a day of testing, netball and soccer matches, health talks and services by government departments – in partnership with Ithwelenye Development Initiative.
On Sunday 27 November AHF, led by patient advocate Jenny Boyce, will be partnering with local church groups in Mariannridge for a Silent Protest against rape starting at the public library at 2:30pm.
Girls ACT KZN culminates in a final community event in Ntuzuma partnering with the Thandolwethu Community Centre on Wednesday 30 November, offering testing, health talks and services by government departments.
The AHF Gauteng branch will hold two marches against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Lesedi and Sedibeng on 29 and 30 November respectively. The marches, followed by workshops – on HIV, teen pregnancy,
gender-based violence, menstrual health and other relevant issues – are being organised in partnership with the Department of Education (in Lesedi) and Sedibeng Social development.
“The statistics of infection among young girls in the 15-24 age category are shockingly high,” emphasizes Larissa Klazinga, Regional Policy & Advocacy Manager for Southern Africa. “We need to keep the momentum going and deliver prevention and treatment messages to young people, empowering them to take control of their health.”
ABOUT THE AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the world. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 650 000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia.