With 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children kicking off this Friday, 25 November, Shout-It-Now is calling on the President to take action.
Johannesburg, South Africa (23 November 2022) – Speaking at the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, held in Midrand on 1-2 November, President Cyril Ramaphosa once again reaffirmed government’s promise to “put the issue of violence against women and children firmly on the national agenda”. While he reflected on the positive steps taken in tackling the country’s widespread gender-based violence, he also admitted to a 52% increase in the number of women murdered and a 46% increase in the number of children murdered, between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.
In Ramaphosa’s own words: “There is much more that still needs to be done.”
As we approach the annual 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children, is it a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same? This is the question asked by Cristianne Wendler, Strategic Advisor at Shout-It-Now, a local South African non-profit company that empowers youth to own their sexuality.
This worldwide campaign to oppose violence against women and children runs every year from 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day). Despite efforts and commitments from the government, violence against women and children continues unabated in the country.
A collaborative and coordinated approach
The Presidential Summit was an opportunity to evaluate what is and isn’t working in the fight against gender-based violence and to highlight and amplify programmes that are making a real difference. The president also called for collective action, asking the private sector in particular to make more resources available where they are needed most.
“We attended the summit to share our vision of how technology can be used in the fight against gender-based violence. One example of this is our free WhatsApp chatbot service called Chomi, which was launched in August this year. Chomi is an engaging, easy-to-use chatbot that enables gender-based violence survivors to anonymously get information, explore options and to confidentially connect to support services, if s/he chooses,” says Wendler.
Chomi uses basic technology to deliver essential information, advice backed by experts and service referrals to gender-based violence survivors, or people who wish to help a survivor. The intention of the chatbot is to put information and options in the hands of the survivor and to facilitate prevention wherever possible. Chomi is unique in that it is multilingual, providing assistance in English and isiZulu, with Setswana and isiXhosa to go live this month.
“The technology behind Chomi isn’t expensive or cutting edge, but it is effective and most importantly, survivor centred. We identified an opportunity to invest in this technology and the outcome is that it’s helping to fight the scourge of gender-based violence in the country,” says Wendler.
“We’re calling on the private sector to get involved and partner with us to expand the functionality of Chomi in order to deliver more languages and create an integrated network of service providers to facilitate referrals and service delivery across the country. For all of this to happen, we need funding.”
Currently, Chomi users who request to be connected to support services in North West and Gauteng will be contacted directly by one of the Shout-It-Now social workers, because those are the provinces where Shout-It-Now operates. Users in other provinces will be directed to one of the 24/7 national helplines. With additional funding, Shout-It-Now can partner with NGOs in different regions, to build a national network of service providers who can offer real-time support to survivors.
Information on your terms
Research indicates that many young people, particularly the tech-savvy youth, prefer to be reached through various tech-enabled platforms, like Chomi, as it allows them the freedom to choose and access information on their terms and in their own time.
Every survivor has unique needs and so it’s important to provide them with options. While some people are comfortable talking face-to-face, others find it intimidating. Many survivors never get the help and support they need because of fear, such as fear of being judged or blamed, fear of the unknown and fear of having to report.
“This is why we designed Chomi,” says Wendler, “so that anyone can anonymously get relevant information about gender-based violence without having to speak to, or interact with, another person.”
By empowering a person with information and options, Wendler believes that you can start to reduce fear and let that person know s/he is not alone, which hopefully will give that person the support they need to reach out for assistance if, and when, they are ready.
“Technology offers us solutions we’ve never had before and bottom line, we need solutions in the fight against gender-based violence. Chomi is proof that by utilising technology, we can create new survivor-centred approaches which have the potential to reach many people who may not have engaged with traditional in-person services. We need to continue to push for innovative solutions that both prevent gender-based violence and also get survivors the services they need,” says Wendler.
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign begins on 25 November and Shout-It-Now is asking the public to heed President Ramaphosa’s call to ‘all play our part’. With collective action and adequate resources, the country can work together to end violence against women and children in South Africa.
To partner with Shout-It-Now or to make a financial contribution, visit https://shoutitnow.org/donate/. To use Chomi, simply save +27 (0) 82 229 6251 to your cellphone and message ‘hi’ to start a conversation on Whatsapp. Follow the prompts to access the information you need.