This August, Supa Quick Bedfordview is teaming up with SA Women Fight Back to highlight the gender-based violence (GBV) that plagues South Africa and build solidarity amongst the public. South Africa has one of the globe’s highest rates of GBV, with one in five women having experienced violence at the hands of a partner. Shockingly, South Africa has the fourth highest death rate amongst women as a result of violence in the 183 countries listed by the World Health Organisation in 2016.
“Women’s Month is supposed to be all about celebrating women and the contribution they make—or could make—but how can we do that if we can’t protect them? We decided we needed to focus on raising awareness about GBV in our society,” says Kerry Albertyn, owner of Supa Quick Bedfordview. “Ours is very much a male-dominated industry, so we believe that by getting behind SA Women Fight Back, we can make a difference.”
SA Women Fight Back recently celebrated its third birthday. The organisation began almost by mistake, says founder Bronwyn Litkie. At the time, she was outraged by the death of Meghan Cremer, and set up a Facebook page to try and organise a protest march. The page got 70 000 followers in its first week, and grew to around 230 000 in a month. This phenomenal growth prompted Bronwyn to register a non-profit organisation to play a role in tackling this problem.
SA Women Fight Back offers women affected by violence help in extricating themselves from their situation, and get counselling and support. It also fulfils an advocacy role, and attempts to persuade government to provide much-needed funding to fight GBV—to date with scant success, Bronwyn says.
“In a sense, the interventions are the easy part. What’s hard is that, at a practical level, the majority of these women are without any means of financial support. Financial abuse tends to go hand-in-hand with physical and mental abuse, and we want to start focusing on identifying partners in business who can help us provide these women with jobs so they can begin rebuilding their lives,” Bronwyn says.
A major challenge is that the organisation is entirely staffed by volunteers—Bronwyn herself works in digital sales. She pays tribute to the fantastic support from women all around the country but it’s also clear that there is only so much that a volunteer organisation can do.
Another huge challenge is the fact that police are not properly trained to deal with these situations, and the legal system is dysfunctional. Women can wait for years for the legal wheels to grind, so many of them are forced to return to their abusive or violent environment simply to survive.
“We are a women’s organisation, but we are not anti-men. There are a lot of good men out there and we need male allies,” she says. “Coming from such an archetypal male domain, Supa Quick Bedfordview’s initiative is thus very welcome, and we hope we can expand it into a longer-term partnership.”
During the month of August, Supa Quick Bedfordview employees will wear GBV-themed T-shirts on Mondays and Fridays, and there will be in-store information leaflets and posters to raise awareness. A big part of the campaign will take place on social media. Followers of its Facebook page are being invited to submit videos showcasing their stand against GBV, with a weekly prize of a R1 000 voucher to keep them coming.
“We want to do our bit in helping build a societal alliance against GBV, and we challenge other tyre fitment centres to do the same,” Kerry says.