South Africa, Now is not the Time to Lose Momentum

On 2 September, South Africa exploded. She cried out in outrage. The bombardment of kidnap, rape and murder headlines in the last months escalated with the rape and death of Uyinene Mrwetyana. The news left our country both angry and heartbroken.

Since then, the heaviness in the hearts of many women (and men) has been tangible. The horrendous rape and murder of this young woman sparked a nationwide movement of solidarity and commitment to ending gender-based violence.

Uyinene had been missing for a number of days. On 2 September, it was discovered that she had been brutally raped and murdered while collecting a package from the post office in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight. The story was reported alongside headlines filled with women and children who had been taken, killed, and raped. It sent a surge of sadness and anger throughout our beloved country. This is not okay.

Enough is enough.

It is not okay that a visit to the post office ends in the loss of an innocent life.

It’s not ok that women live in constant fear when going through the ordinary tasks of daily life.

It is not okay that this has been happening for so long without enough coverage because it has become so normalised.

It’s not okay that we are rendered powerless and voiceless.

I am angry. I am tired. But most of all, I am hurting.

I am hurting for all the women, and I am hurting for my country. I am hurting for the inherent hate and disregard for fellow humans.

Photo by Kyle Kingsley

We need change.

The rate of gender-based violence (which includes domestic violence) in South Africa is said to be one of the highest in the world. This alone should alert us to the necessity and urgency of action. Action by government, by men, by us; action by the people. I believe that policy change, stricter law enforcement, government reform and community intervention are all required. There is no question about this.

But in the same breath, I believe that it is ultimately up to us, the people of South Africa, to educate ourselves, change our behaviour and shift our mindsets. Then, and only then, will real lasting change be possible. Education, awareness and intervention need to be available and accessible for everyone. Privileged or not.

This is not a problem for any one class, gender or social group. This is a human problem.

Reform is needed. Change in behaviour backed up by actionable steps is needed. But for lasting change, minds and hearts need to be affected and moved. We should not lower ourselves to perpetuating the same shame cycle that is intended to bind us by staying silent. When we stand united and raise our voices, we are stronger.

Men need to be better. Men CAN be better. Overwhelmingly, men are the perpetrators of gender-based violence. It is time to put aside shaming and call men to join us in action. Justice needs to be served, and that means expecting more from the men of our country and holding them accountable.

Photo by Kyle Kingsley

We can’t lose momentum.

I choose to believe in the restoration of our country. And we are our country. All of us, the people. Women and men. And that means I choose to believe in the restoration of the people of South Africa.

This will not be a battle easily won, yet to bring peace and relief to the women of South Africa who are hurting and dying, we will have to come together. Now is not the time to be divided. It is the time to stand in unity. Publicly, privately, in our homes, in our friendship circles, in our relationships.

We are still blaming and shaming. Yes, we are angry. I am furious. But we must take action. I intend to. This is mourning and grief, but breakthrough comes from laying down oppressive and hateful mindsets. It will be uncomfortable; growth always is.

We must choose to look forward and to see that men can be a restorative power instead of a problem.

The pain brought upon women by gender-based violence has had a devastating effect on South Africa. There is no excuse for this behaviour. I am appealing to us, my bruised self included, to take our hurt, anger and frustration and put it into action. Let us not grow weary; let us not forget.

Our anger at these injustices is only as good as the action birthed from it. Hate and animosity cannot fix the problems and injustices that are at the root of gender-based violence. But unrelentless hope and belief, along with intentional action, can.

Global Action Week

May 4th-11th is Global Action Week. Global Action Week is an international focal point for education with events taking place in over 100 countries highlighting the importance of education for all. With this week, GCE chapters around the world work to raise awareness and create political will through advocacy to ensure that all children around the world have access to education. This year’s global theme is Equal Right, Equal Opportunity focusing on education and children with disabilities.

Globally, there are nearly 66 million girls out of school. Advocacy is a critical component to advancing the global conversation for girls’ education. To celebrate Global Action Week, we are partnering with the Global Campaign for Education, United States Chapter to highlight the importance of education for girls.

Join the Global Conversation!

#GirlsDreamBig Twitter Chat

Google + Hangout, Passion to Action: Girls Lead for Education

How are you advocating for girls’ education?

Tweet us this week @GirlsGlobe


Cover Photo Credit: One Laptop per Child, Flickr Creative Commons


Give Mothers and Babies Life

Newborn and maternal mortality in Nigeria
A mother holds her premature daughter at Turay Yaradua Maternal and Children’s Hospital in Nigeria.
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation on Flickr

Imagine this. You are almost nine months pregnant somewhere in rural Nigeria. It is 20 kilometers to the nearest clinic and you have no way to get there without walking. None of your friends or family can afford to help you nor are they able to take the time to care for you. This is something you’ll have to manage yourself.

If you have any complication, there are no resources in the clinic for emergency obstetric care, and you have no way to get to a hospital that can help you.

Or imagine that you live in Somalia, where the risk is high that you lose your baby during childbirth when there is no one else than an untrained traditional birth attendant who destroys the possibilities of life.

Or you’re pregnant in Afghanistan, Niger, or Chad. Some of the most dangerous places on earth to become pregnant and deliver a baby. What would you do when there is nothing else to choose?

It is estimated that 200,000 women and girls die due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications every year. That’s 800 girls and women every single day.

Pregnancy and childbirth is the most common cause of death for teenage girls between 15 and 19 years. For every girl or woman who dies, several more suffer complications that changes their lives forever. When a mother dies, the risk for her child to die before the age of five drastically increases.

When women die children die, leading to families and entire communities torn to pieces!

A sister holds her baby brother in Uttar Pradesh, India.  Photo Credit: Gates Foundation on Flickr
A sister holds her baby brother in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation on Flickr

But pregnancy does not have to be a lottery of life and death depending on where you live! 80% of all maternal deaths can be avoided with access to emergency obstetric care and skilled health workers, such as trained midwives.

When girls and women have access to contraception, prenatal care and emergency obstetric care, we create a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society. We reduce the risk of unsafe or illegal abortions. We increase opportunities for girls to get an education and empower women to decide over their future. We contribute to a development, which goes so much further than to the women and girls themselves.

When we invest in women we invest in society as a whole.

And, there is good news. In almost 20 years, we have almost halved the maternal mortality rate in the world. And it is proved that we can drastically change the status of girls and women today. Around the world, we are creating a revolution. Now we need to mobilize into action!

We need resources, political will and a change in social norms at the grassroots level. We need to increase knowledge, enhance girls’ and women’s rights and hold our leaders accountable.

We all have a role in contributing to change. Every single person has the possibility to influence change. Thanks to several different initiatives we are creating new opportunities for girls around the world. When we learn more, we can do more and inspire others to action!

We can save lives.

Here is a short list of things you can do to take part in saving mothers’ and babies’ lives:

No woman or girl should have to die when giving life. Maternal health is a human right, and girls’ rights are human rights. Together we can ensure that all women and girls survive their pregnancy.

Infographic below by USAID.

savingatbirth-1000Living Proof - Birth in NepalFeatured image credit: Gates Foundation on Flickr.