South Africa’s National Strategic Plan to end gender-based violence and femicide is being implemented by volunteers | An observer’s perspective

By Marinda Weideman

South Africa’s National Strategic Plan to end gender-based violence and femicide is being implemented by volunteers | An observer’s perspective

Despite a progressive legislative framework and consistent efforts over approximately two decades to end gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in South Africa, GBVF remains prevalent.

In response, protests escalated in 2018 culminating in the #TheTotalShutdown Intersectional Womxn’s Movement. The Movement led 27 marches across South and Southern Africa and handed a list of 24 demands to a receptive and visibly moved President Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa then appointed his special advisor to work with the Department of Justice to lead the process of convening a Gender Summit. The South African Presidential Summit against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide took place in November 2018, and the Summit Declaration was published in March 2019. Following extensive consultation with multiple stakeholders, this culminated in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF, which came into effect in April 2020.

According to the End GBV Collective, the NSP on GBVF “provides a strategic roadmap for a multi-sectoral approach and sets out specific plans on how to journey together to end GBVF”. The NSP has six pillars, each of which outline key focus areas with specific outcomes. These are:

Pillar 1: Accountability, Coordination and Leadership
Pillar 2: Prevention and Rebuilding Social Cohesion
Pillar 3: Justice, Safety and Protection
Pillar 4: Response, Care, Support and Healing
Pillar 5: Economic Power
Pillar 6: Research and Information Management

The NSP on GBVF envisaged that a GBV Council would be established by May 2019. Although an Interim Committee was established to oversee the development of the NSP, no permanent GBV Council has been established yet. When questioned by journalists from the Mail and Guardian, neither the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, nor the Commission on Gender Equality could adequately explain why this was the case.

Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made under each pillar because the NSP is effectively being implemented by a group of dedicated volunteers known as the End GBVF Collective.

This Collective was formed from the 1200 delegates who attended the Presidential Summit and has since attracted additional members. This multi-sectoral implementation collective has become the biggest single volunteer network working to end GBVF. It is organized into six self-managed working groups, each aligned to a specific pillar of the NSP. Individuals volunteer for the pillar that aligns most closely to their interests and skills.

As commendable as this is, in the words of the Collective itself, “being wholly reliant on the goodwill of participants . . . is clearly not a sustainable solution”, and therefore the GBV Council should be established. In the interim, the Collective continues, “because it is our best chance of ending the GBVF epidemic and, in so doing, creating the type of society we all want to live in: A society free of violence, particularly of the often-invisible violence perpetrated against womxn and children at the hands of men who claim to love them”.