Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to stain our annual Women’s Month celebrations. Despite the many initiatives implemented across the public and private sectors, South Africa still has one of the highest incidence rates of violence against women and children in the world.
Men are the principal perpetrators of violence against women and girls, and a radical mindset shift is necessary to bring about lasting behavioral change. However, it is essential to note that marginalizing men to empower women only worsens GBV. Partnering with men as allies to establish positive gender attitudes is key to changing a culture that has historically reinforced GBV.
“Efforts to end GBV falter when men are not engaged as part of the solution,” says Mara Glennie, CEO and founder of the TEARS Foundation (TEARS). “Men are often the problem – and therefore men must be part of the solution. Male engagement is critical to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls, and partnering with men as allies to establish positive gender attitudes is key to changing a culture that has historically reinforced GBV.”
Men have a crucial role to play as fathers, friends, decision makers, and community and opinion leaders, in speaking out against violence against women and ensuring that priority attention is given to the ongoing issue.
“This year celebrates a decade since our humble beginnings from my dining-room table, after I walked away from many years of intimate partner violence, with only a phonebook and 2 university students to help me. In the past ten years, many men from all walks of life have partnered with TEARS to lead efforts to prevent and end this form of violence, and on this Women’s Day, I would like to publicly applaud and pay homage to some of the men who have supported our Foundation over the years,” Glennie says.
- Richard Firth, Chairman and CEO of software company MIP Holdings, who built, deployed, and is maintaining a bespoke digital platform that assists TEARS in capturing cases, recording victim and perpetrator details as well as case and court order numbers provided by the police.
- Dr Chris Jardine, Group CEO at integrated workplace solutions provider Tsebo Solutions Group, who provides TEARS with office space at no cost and whose financial support over the past ten years has enabled TEARS to assist over 750,000 GBV victims, offering free services and covering additional costs when necessary.
- Carl van der Riet, CEO at AVBOB Mutual Assurance Society, who took a stand against GBV with their ongoing 365+ campaign, and for sponsoring the TEARS “Help at your fingertips” free USSD helpline *134*7355#. Living out their motto, we’re there for you by assisting to make our help services free to users, nationwide.
- Howard Lonstein, Trade Marketing Specialist at JCDecaux Africa, assisting with raising awareness at airports with billboard advertising at no cost to TEARS. These boards make people conscious about GBV and that there is support available to address it.
- Mark Jurgens, Director at wealth and risk managers Jurgens Group, who inspired friends and colleagues to donate comfort packs to TEARS. These packs provide a rape survivor with essential items and helps to give back some of the dignity and respect that has been so violently taken from her. The survivor packs for children are sadly in high demand, due to the increase in the number of child rapes.
- Chris Hitchings, Executive: Human Capital at Provantage Media Group, who creates advertising campaigns for TEARS, for use on airport billboards reaching business travellers, creating greater awareness of TEARS Foundation.
While non-profit organisations such as TEARS continue to inspire high levels of trust as they work to address societal ills, these NPOs unfortunately do not have the financial resources needed to achieve sustainable, large-scale impact. “Even though people and organisations have become more vocal about GBV and realising the power of their voices in combating this malaise, NPOs are constantly hat in hand, asking for funding support. Despite the willingness of businesses to get involved in initiatives designed to combat GBV, very little is being achieved largely because efforts are often duplicated, and there is no coherent strategy,” states Glennie.
“There is a massive need for an effective social contract between all players in the fight against GBV. We need to recognise and clearly define the respective roles of all players, and how they can work in synergy to ensure that there are systems of financing and effective multi-sectoral collaboration in place.”
“As Madiba so poignantly said: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’ Currently, only seven of the top 100 JSE-listed companies in South Africa have female CEOs, and with Madiba’s words as context, I would like to encourage the active involvement of all our male CEOs in the private sector to make a real and lasting impact. It’s time to stop paying lip service to solving the scourge of GBV in our country and start implementing collaborative solutions that are outcomes-based. Together we can eliminate gender-based violence in our country,” concludes Glennie.
In the past ten years, TEARS Foundation have won several awards, including an MTN Award for Social Change; the TT100 Emerging Enterprise Finalist for the Department of Science and Innovation Director General Award for Overall Excellence as well as winner of the TT100 Emerging Enterprise Innovation Concept for “Speak Up”, a Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business; and a Silver Award for Service Excellence in the Social Transformation and Social Development category in the Gauteng Premier’s Service Excellence Awards