OPINION: Do more to prevent gender-based violence

Karen Kotze

We are well into August, and, frankly, I am furious. It’s not that I expect (naively) for all violence against women and children to miraculously cease during the month we supposedly celebrate women and womanhood, but I find the constant stream of lives being lost to be just raw.

Great that our president has decided it’s time to take a look at this. Great that many organisations exist and do amazing work with the rape survivors. Great that it’s
being brought into the light a bit more.

But forgive me if that doesn’t blow my hair back either. I have heard and seen it before. And still the problem persists.

One of the pleas that come to the paper each year around this time is from the Simon’s Town Museum supporting the Handbag Project. For those who
don’t know, it’s a project which asks for handbags in good condition to be donated to rape survivors. The idea is that these handbags are filled with items which the rape survivor can use to help them recover.
Absolute basics of toiletries, a snack, toothbrush, hair brush, toothpaste, deodorant. Underwear.

We are in 2020 and rape is still a daily occurrence. The idea of anyone (and any child) being given this handbag in the month that women are supposedly celebrated, has just done my head in.

It is a beautiful idea; it’s the necessity for it that has me fuming. And, honestly, my first thought was the cosmetics industry. How many times have you seen those ads? Buy X amount of products and get this handbag free. Really?

How about a new line? Buy X many products, and the free handbag has been donated to the Handbag Project.

When do we move from simply saying sorry to rape survivors to taking real actions that strip away outdated and egregious ideas?
When do we teach emotional intelligence in mainstream places? When do we stop being afraid of calling out the behaviour at the root of this scourge?

Until we change societal norms and thinking, we will have the same or worse sexual assault and rape statistics next year.

And another call for more handbags.

So, in the interim, this is an acknowledgement to all the women who have held themselves above the trials of their lives, who have gone through unimaginable difficulty, cried and felt crushed, but then, have stood up and started all over again.

To those who were told no, and found a way, anyway. To those who were abused, shamed, belittled and bullied: and never believed a nasty word of it. This is an acknowledgement to all those women who
trust their gut instinct, are wise enough to honour one another as they do themselves, to support and bolster one another, with grace, and much, much laughter.

This is an acknowledgement to those who reflect deeply on their way in the world, who make time for their art. Who make time to draw from the mystery of the world, and take time, for
themselves. Here’s to those who are conscious as women – as wives, partners, mothers, daughters,
sisters, best friends, mentors – for those alive with mirth and magic and for those who tend the children (even if they are not biologically their own).

Here’s to the mothers who chose their children over abusive men. And to the strong, balanced, committed mothers who chose their children over the slop of
drink, and seep of drugs. Here’s to the crones, rasping with delight, and to the wisdom they have gleaned, and what they choose to share with those who have not yet developed their own insights.

Here’s to the little girls who know, but must still be taught, that to be a woman is a thing of great power, great mystery. That
inherent within us is immense, creative joy and beauty. And worth.

Here is to those never cowed, never corrected into boxes of
being less. Here’s to those who teach this, who inspire this, by being this.

Happy Women’s Day to you all and to all that you (we) are becoming.