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JOHANNESBURG – In support of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Vodacom hosted its annual Walk against GBV on Wednesday 7 December 2022. The event called for South Africans to come together to combat the scourge of GBV. As in previous years, the public participated virtually from any location and dedicated their walk to the campaign.
"As we mark the 16 Days of Activism against GBV campaign, established by the United Nations, we are cognisant that more needs to be done to combat this horrific plague affecting South Africa. Learners are especially vulnerable to its impact, and that is why we are calling citizens to come together and raise awareness of GBV in schools and communities, and ensure positive change to protect our country's future," says Takalani Netshitenzhe, Director of External Affairs at Vodacom South Africa.
Recently, the South African Police Service released crime statistics for the second quarter of 2022/23, which showed a spike in GBV and femicide in the country compared to the same period last year. Research has continuously shown that learners affected by violence can experience psychological effects and are more likely to be survivors or perpetrators of GBV later in life.
In 2021, Vodacom partnered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to place 22 psychosocial professionals in seven schools to help in the fight against bullying and school violence in South Africa. Trained by the University of Stellenbosch, the psychosocial professionals are a critical resource that assists with promoting a safe school environment, supporting educators and learners, and providing intervention sessions to address psychosocial issues and reduce school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV).
"The Change the World programme forms part of Vodacom's GBV ecosystem, which provides prevention, response, and victim support, in partnership with government and civil society organisations. By working with the DBE, we hope to address some of the root causes of GBV at school level, which put so many of our young people, especially girls, at risk, and give learners and educators the skills to prevent the cycle of GBV, which can affect South Africa's socio-economic potential," adds Netshitenzhe.
On 25 November, Vodacom hosted a panel discussion unpacking the importance of the Change the World initiative and the positive impact of the programme on the seven supported schools, not only for the learners and teachers, but also for the community. The panel included Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, author and gender activist, Dr Jackie Stewart, executive director of Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO), social workers at the schools and Khazamula Chauke, principal at DR WF Nkomo school in Attridgeville.
Speaking at the event, Professor Gqola said, "Schools are very important places of socialisation. We spend an enormous amount of time as human beings in countries such as ours where education is mandatory in school. So, to make interventions and to seriously understand GBV, the tenets, the possibilities, the impossibilities and effects on people in school is particularly important. If violence is an important part of our experience at school, then violence becomes part of how we are socialised."
As part of Vodacom's commitment against GBV, the Vodacom Foundation launched the Bright Sky mobile app, which provides information on GBV and access to support services. To empower survivors of GBV, Vodacom provides ICT training in shelters across South Africa, with more than 1 400 survivors trained in digital skills to date. These initiatives are over and above Vodacom's R10 million pledge the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Response Fund established by the President of South Africa in February 2021.
"At Vodacom, we believe in using our capabilities to ensure a brighter future for everyone, but this is only possible through strong collaboration. That is why it is critical that we are united in the fight against GBV, through our initiatives such as Change the World and Walk against GBV and bring an end to GBV's destruction on our society," concludes Netshitenzhe.
Vodacom employees participated in the 3km walk from the Midrand head office, with support from Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Vodacom Bulls and Lions stars. The public can participate virtually and dedicate their walk to the campaign, tagging Vodacom with #ConnectingForGood #ItsNotNothing.