Although South Africa increasingly gains prominence on the international stage it continues to grapple with devastating health and development challenges. South Africa currently has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world (5.6 million) and reports one of the highest rates of sexual violence and rape in the world. Violence against women and the fear of violence plays a crucial and devastating role in increasing the risk of HIV infection to women and is a key reason why women are more vulnerable to HIV infection than men.
PCI, together with the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Networks on Violence against Women which represent over 300 member organizations, is spearheading a cross-sectoral effort to change social norms that engender and sustain physical and sexual violence against women and puts them at increased risk of HIV infection. Central to the project’s success is the active support from various public and civil society sector partners, including the South African Government Departments of Health and Justice as well as the Police Services. Program activities engage and mobilize key civil society and public sector actors and create an environment that addresses the social norm of inaction in response to violence against women to one of ACTION.
SOCIAL NORM SHIFTING IN GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
PCI’s social mobilization model re-enforces engagement, amplification communication, and social action to engage many segments of society in an effort to change social norms that keep violence against women alive. One of the program’s most significant features has been the strategic use of evidence and operational research for optimal impact. A variety of research and evaluation methods (quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic) have been utilized to regularly and routinely review program progress and inform adjustments needed to maximize program impact. Initially, it was assumed that many South Africans believed violence against women was acceptable given its incredibly high prevalence. Qualitative research found that participants could identify negative attitudes and beliefs relating to violence; however, further research found these attitudes and beliefs were not actually widely held by men or women. Of 3,001 respondents, only 1% agreed it was okay for a husband to hit his wife during a disagreement, only 4% agreed that when a man hit his wife it was a sign of love, and only 5% agreed that if a man hit his wife or girlfriend she must have done something to deserve it.
Recognizing that violence against women was actually well known to be wrong, PCI shifted from focusing on the minority of people accepting violence, toward social action and community mobilization to address violence itself. The program changed to address societal inaction in response to violence against women, shaping a wide range of activities promoting individual, community, and social action. The program evaluation is being conducted with the view to developing a model that has been proved effective and can be cost efficiently scaled up.
COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION USING INNOVATIVE COMMUNICATIONS
Community mobilization efforts led by PCI and local partners drove the creation of an innovative new social movement entitled Prevention in Action, which aims to create and sustain a new norm of action in response to violence against women. The movement includes 12 public and civil society sector partners across the two provinces. Prevention in Action currently has 90 active Community Engagers, over 4,000 Community Influencers in KwaZulu-Natal and 2,000 Community Influencers in Western Cape who have been trained and have the tools and knowledge to take safe, effective group action to their communities to prevent violence against women in ways that are relevant, acceptable and unique. Up to 60,000 Prevention in Action group members are active in the movement.
Prevention in Action filmed and documented over 100 actual stories of actions taken to stop violence against women in local communities during Women’s Month in August, 2011. With the consent of participants, Prevention in Action disseminated these stories through booklets/DVDs, the Prevention in Action Facebook page, and Action Story Sharing events held in local communities to inspire action by sharing ideas and examples of actions taken to overcome barriers. Growing support for the movement led to digital story-sharing platforms held in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape during the 16 Days to Stop Violence Against Women from 25 November to 10 December 2011 to help build the enabling environment to support actions.
In 2012 the project focused on continuing to promote actions to stop violence against women while also empowering the community to develop Prevention In Action Committees led by the Community Engager/Organizers. These committees are made up of Community Influencers, service providers, and other key members of the community such as religious leaders, government officials, police officers and other community-based organizations. The purpose of these committees is to establish and maintain Violence Free Zones that are community owned and led. The committee organizes regular actions to send the message that violence will not be tolerated and well be met with action. As the project ends, these committees and their violence free zones are able to sustain the Prevention In Action movement objectives.
The United States Agency for International Development, PEPFAR
Click here to read PCI’s South Africa fact sheet.
PREVENTION IN ACTION SUCCESS STORIES
- Akona Meyi: Teen Takes Action Against Violence Against Women
- Nosiphiwo Mbolekwa: Community Action Group Sends Serial Abuser Back to Jail
- Sharleen Pillay: Commuters Save Woman from Violent Attack
- Thoko Zwane: Community Action Fun-Walk Gets Men Thinking about How to Treat Women
- Vukile Qobozana: Vukile Teaches Men to Respect Women