Before rape becomes the new normal, before rape becomes forever attached to the word “culture”, and before we think changing a Facebook profile pic is a substitute for real action, South Africans have to turn the tide on rape, gender-based violence and sexual abuse.
Health-e News is launching our Izwi Lami – My Voice Campaign that will run until Women’s Month in August.
The aim of our media drive is to bring into sharper focus the crisis destroying countless lives every day and leaving in its wake a legacy of fear, trauma, violence, shame and anger.
For things to change, it needs the attention of each South African and the courage of all of us to take personal responsibility for shifting a situation that’s been allowed to go wrong in too many ways.
At the heart of the Izwi Lami campaign is an effort to collect the testimonies of survivors, put them in touch with counselling services, and campaign for a standard package of healthcare for all survivors to be available at all 24-hour health facilities.
This will be done through our free SMS-driven survey and questionnaire platform.
By texting the keyword ‘endrape’ to 38006 rape survivors can take part in a survey about their personal experience, get information about counselling services in their provinces and add their support for the demand for the package of care.
The survey allows survivors to record personal stories anonymously, giving as much or as little information they’re comfortable to share. For many women this may be the first time they are able to share their experiences of trauma.
Although responses are automated, the testimonies will be monitored closely by Health-e’s staff. Those survivors willing to share their stories publicly (either with or without their names) will have excerpts of their accounts shared on Health-e’s website and via social media pages.
The intention of this is to show other survivors they are not alone, and to create a conversation on social media around how pervasive rape is in the country. The short survey of eleven questions will include information gathering around the incident or incidents of rape or sexual abuse and a record of the treatment, care and justice for victims. This information can help to identify gaps in care and treatment and allow activists, funders and policy makers to channel resources and efforts where they’re needed most.
Izwi Lami is a collaborative campaign, with Health-e partnering with Rape Crisis, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Sonke Gender Justice, LifeLine, mainstream media outlets and local personalities to highlight the issues that beg for us not to look away.
Each SMS conversation ends with a link to a petition designed by Amandla.mobi calling for a package of care (counselling, ARVs, antibiotics and a morning-after pill) to be provided to every rape survivor.
At the end of Women’s Month, the SMS tool can be handed over to any other body or organisations interested in using it for continued information gathering and counseling direction for survivors of rape and sexual abuse victims in the country.
Through the Izwi Lami campaign Health-e will also focus on telling the stories that give broader perspective on why rape, gender-based violence and abuse continues to be society’s collective shame and stigma. Through unpacking the many dimensions of a complex societal scourge we hope to bring it out from the shadows, and to create deeper awareness that can interrupt the cycle of rape and abuse.
Join us on this journey because our rape and abuse crisis leaves no South African unaffected. Izwi Lami is a call to be heard, it’s also a call to listen and call to act.
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Reporting for this story was supported by Code for Africa’s impactAFRICA fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.