A non-violent South Africa requires a united effort. During this 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, loveLife, South Africa’s youth leadership development organisation, aligns itself with the Department of Social Development’s “COUNT ME IN: TOGETHER MOVING A NON-VIOLENT SOUTH AFRICA FORWARD” theme. loveLife encourages young people to speak up and join in by being part of the solution to fight against all forms of violence against women and children in their schools, communities and within their families.

loveLife believes in the power of youth as change agents. Youth must be counted in on issues affecting their communities by taking action to promote equality, safety, social justice and no violence against women and children, including gender-based violence (GBV) and cyberbullying. Young people also have a clear role to play in rejecting harmful patriarchal stereotypes and promoting healthy relationships between men and women, adults and children. They have the power to reshape communities and speak out against any violence they experience or witness.

In the context of very high rates of violence towards women and children in South Africa, the 16 Days of Activism to highlight the importance of addressing this scourge in our society is critical. The Medical Research Council has estimated that only one out of nine sexual offences is reported to the police – just a fraction of the reality. In 2013/2014 the South African Police Service reported a total of 48 718 contact crimes against children, of which: 25 446 were sexual offences, 11 089 common assault, 9 766 assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm and 870 being attempted murders. Violence against women is also high. According to the Optimus Study on Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect in South Africa by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention at the University of Cape Town, a total of 169 559 crimes were committed against women; of which 2 354 were homicides, 2 651 attempted murders,

54 621 assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, 80 672 common assault and 29 251 sexual assault.

“We at loveLife are compassionate to women and children affected by violent crimes,” says Dr Lebo Maroo, loveLife’s Deputy CEO. “To this effect, loveLife together with its partners – the Department of Social Development, the Department of Health and the Department of Sport and Recreation and others – offers among its programmes, psychosocial support to parents and youth in need of information, support or advice during the 16 Days of Activism and throughout the year. Women and children of South Africa are still very vulnerable irrespective of all their freedoms and democratic rights. We as loveLife support Zero Tolerance to violence. Count Us In.”

As part of marking the 16 Days of Activism, loveLife will run intergenerational dialogues called Born Free Dialogues (BFDs) at loveLife Y-Centre Academies nationwide where appropriate, locally relevant community programmes and interventions can be implemented. These BFDs will be implemented across the country and communities are invited to join in so they can be counted in towards creating a non-violent South Africa.

In addition, the campaign calls on young people to tackle abuse in any way they can, including wearing the white ribbon for peace with pride, encouraging silent victims to speak out, reporting incidents of violence to the police and seeking help if you are abusive or have experienced abuse.

Anyone in an abusive relationship can send a PLZ CAL ME to loveLife’s Contact Centre on 083 323 1023 and a counsellor will call them back as soon as one is available (this is a free service).

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