“Gender-based violence is considered as a second pandemic in South Africa” states Mary Nkopane, councillor in the Stellenbosch municipality.
Mary Nkopane is one of the participants of the municipal partnership between Stellenbosch and Jönköping municipality. She has a long experience on working with gender-based violence, GBV, in her community. As a councillor in the Stellenbosch municipality, she is now raising the issue in her municipal council aiming at strengthening their capacities in tackling the problem.
It was only when herself left a strict relationship that she felt the courage to engage herself in the community. The start of her strong involvement in the community was her work with children exposed to abusive relationships. Since then, Mary has not stopped fighting for women’s empowerment. Today she is continuing promoting social development, supporting the fight against violence against women and children, as a councillor in the municipality.
“I have hope and faith that in the future women will be able to defend themselves and that they can survive without the guardianship of a partner”.
Everyday children and women are dying due to the high prevalence of GBV in South Africa. One woman is raped every 3 hours in South Africa and the rate to which women are killed by intimate partners is five times higher than the global average. Therefore, the problem has become not only a problem for the society but also one for the democracy.
Gender-based violence is a violation of rights; the right to decide over one’s own body, the right to life, liberty and personal safety, the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment amongst some. It goes beyond physical and sexual violence; it is also subordination of control. This hinders one’s equal opportunity to participate in the society, which is a fundamental principle of democracy.
The problem is connected to norms and the fact that women in South Africa do not have money to decide over their own life. There is a strong silence-culture in my country where a lot of women fear that if they raise claims about GBV and their partner and abuser is jailed they will not have money and the economic needs to survive.
Mary raises the need to economically empower women as well as to help and support them to speak up against violence.
“There is a need to help people understand that they are living in an abusive relationship”, she says.
 Govender I. Gender-based violence – An increasing epidemic in South Africa. S Afr Fam Pract (2004). 2023 Mar 31;65(1):e1-e2. doi: 10.4102/safp.v65i1.5729. PMID: 37042525; PMCID: PMC10091185.
The partnership Stellenbosch – Jönköping
In their municipal partnership project, Stellenbosch and Jönköping municipalities are focusing on strengthening their organisational capacities on working with the problem of gender-based violence. Through peer exchange and learning between the municipalities they have raised their organisational awareness of the problem. They have also gained an increased understanding for the social norms that drives the violence.
By collaborating with schools, they are in their respective municipalities working on implementing a method for teachers called “Normstorm” into the school curriculum. The project is not only reaching results within the municipalities but also within the society where awareness on violence can lead to a society free from it.