Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project
Photo Cred: Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Standing Together For Her to mobilise resources and support South Africa and beyond in Gender-Based Violence prevention and relief efforts.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (23 October 2020) – In South Africa, the gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women and girls is systemic and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures, and traditions. This has become a heritage, heightened by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, that South Africans and the world at large are calling to change.

The United Nations Population Fund estimated that six months of lockdown would result in 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence (GBV) across the globe. During the first week of the lockdown alone, the South African Police Service reported a 37% increase in the reported cases of GBV.

To address the dire need for resources, deploy funds, and support the global response against domestic violence amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), CARE, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) launched Together For Her in April 2020, supporting women and children against domestic violence.

Through the Together For Her initiative, female role models from across film and entertainment, sports, fashion, and business have used their voices and made financial gifts to stand in solidarity with women around the world, especially those who have become even more vulnerable during this time of crisis.

This initiative is already supporting the work of 35 civil society organisations in South Africa, Guatemala, Israel, Malawi, Mexico, and the United States, with contributions exceeding $1 million.

“In this moment, it’s critical that we stand together globally for women and girls,” says Charlize Theron, actor and founder of CTAOP.

“We’ve always known that social injustices cannot be solved in isolation. For instance, we cannot help youth keep themselves safe from HIV/AIDS through education alone. There are so many contextual challenges and societal injustices driving those rates, as well. We work with strong, community-based organisations across South Africa to create safe spaces, reduce stigma, and have honest conversations with youth in order to provide opportunities, break down barriers, and help make youth aware of the power of their own voices and choices. And given the trends around GBV we’ve seen in South Africa, which have been exacerbated due to COVID-19 restrictions, Together for Her is just another extension of the positive efforts already happening.”

Cookie Edwards, one of the beneficiaries and Executive Director at the KwaZulu-Natal Network on Violence Against Women, says; “Access to support has been the greatest challenge during these times, because survivors were effectively locked-in with their perpetrators.”

Through the support from CTAOP, the KwaZulu-Natal Network on Violence Against Women has setup rapid response networks to assist with extractions, provide support to police stations, assist with local Magistrate Court protection orders, and coordinate access and information to medical services and shelters.

In addition to tightening the safety net around survivors in order to avoid secondary victimisation, rapid response team leaders also assist with psychosocial support, case management, and GBV risk mitigation by providing care through proper referral pathways.

“Since the start of lockdown in South Africa, we’ve seen unparalleled poverty unfolding,” says Dr Paul Cromhout, Chief Executive Officer of Small Projects Foundation, a longstanding CTAOP Program Partner organization and also a Together for Her beneficiary. “Therefore, a big focus for us has been to distribute resources to our communities; from operating as a credible source of information to distributing vouchers for groceries, getting access to learning material and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to support and medical teams.”

Despite the immediate and invaluable impact of the support received, these leaders working to protect women and children against GBV agree that continued focus needs to be placed on long-term goals and priorities, supported by renewed modules.

“We’re investing in a new platform that will allow our response teams to capture and report accurate GBV figures not reflected in national statistics. Currently, national systems don’t take into account GBV cases reported to civil society,” says Edwards. “This will help us identify hot-spots to, in turn, focus our measures and provide specific support aligned to financial or emotional in addition to physical abuse.”

Dr Cromhout believes that the ultimate success to root out GBV will be based in preventative, pre-emptive measures, which requires people’s primary needs to be prioritised; from nutrition and violence-free environments to concretizing value-systems that change the often-accepted patriarchal approach.

“We are also looking at how we can expand virtual support services, which could give more people access to expert advice to supplement in-community face-to-face touchpoints – allowing our teams and resources to reach so much further,” says Dr Cromhout.

Along with spearheading and making lead gifts to the Together for Her Campaign, Charlize and CTAOP have granted an additional  $500k+ to COVID relief efforts both in the United States and South Africa including the provision of PPE and support for community health workers.

“With restrictions slowly easing, we cannot allow ourselves to lose momentum; we need to be open to honest conversations about the legacy of violence against women that needs to change and to remain clear in our vision to fight for a future where all youth are empowered to live healthy, productive, AIDS-free lives,” says Theron.

Victims of GBV can call the South African GBV Command Centre toll-free number: 0800 428 428 or SMS ‘help’ to 31531 or send a please call me to *120*7867# in order to receive assistance. Or visit www.care.org/togetherforher to learn more about how you can get involved and stand Together For Her.


Sources: Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project
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