As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Concludes, Khulumani Remembers and Honours Women as Activists and as Healers

Women's anti-pass march in Pretoria on 9 August 1956. Women's anti-pass march in Pretoria on 9 August 1956. Photo: Baileys African History Archive

Over the course of the past 16 days commencing on 25 November 2016, Khulumani has focused on its work on building a safe, peaceful and inclusive society with a special focus on women - women as survivors of gender-based violence, women as activists against all forms of gender-based violence, women as catalysts for community action in non violent peacebuilding within Khulumani-organised communities.

We return to close the loop on these reflections and stories from Khulumani, remembering the cost of gender-based violence to societies across the world and recalling the horrific assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters who were political activists in the Dominican Republic on this day. Their killing had been ordered by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The decision to mark the day of their assassination as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women commenced in 1981 and continues to gain momentum across the world. It is a day dedicated to combating and raising awareness of violence against women across the globe, recognizing that

"Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development. It imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies. The world cannot afford to pay this price." — Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence concludes today, 10 December, International Human Rights Day, we observe that in South Africa, today also marks the 20th Anniversary of the Signing into effect of the South African Constitution by then President Mandela in a ceremony at Sharpeville. President Mandela chose Sharpeville as a symbolic site because it had been the site of the 1960 massacre of unarmed protestors who had risen up against the apartheid state's requirement that all black persons carry a dompas (a document that was used to monitor and regulate the movements of all black persons in South Africa). The unarmed protestors had presented themselves without their pass books (dompas) for arrest at the Sharpeville Police Station on grounds that they had chosen to defy this unjust law. At the end of the day 67 Sharpeville residents, including women, lay dead on the ground across the road from the Sharpeville Police Station and its precinct where the local Khulumani member group now has its offices and craft centre.

Today the country's focus returns to Sharpeville, site of the signing of the country's 1996 Constitution and the promise that the Constitution could be used to prevent a recurrence of apartheid practices and unjust laws that should never again see the light of day in South Africa.

At the country's official celebration of the 20th Anniversary of our Constitution takes place in Sharpeville today, we remember our terrible history that will be presented as a play by Khulumani members who survived the 21 March 1960 massacre at Sharpeville.

At this time of reflection, we remember the costs carried by women as targets of political violence. We share the story of Nolitha Tuta on our blog 16 Days in Memory of (Fezekile) Khwezi:

We honour the Nolithas within Khulumani's ranks who continue the processes of "wiping the tears" of wounded people as we work to end the cycles of violence within our country, our continent and the world.

May that struggle continue!

"Why can’t you be like other people?"

Nolitha Tuta speaks with the dignity borne of having wiped away many tears – her own and those of others. Like every woman, she has played many roles; she speaks as writer, counsellor, sister, daughter, friend, educator. In all these roles, Nolitha has resisted the status quo. She has chosen to stand firm against oppression, side by side with others engulfed by it.

Originally from Cradock in the Eastern Cape, Nolitha was forcibly displaced and found herself living and working in Ciskei during the 1980s. She describes turmoil and violence during 1982–1985, with many police raids taking place. The most vulnerable during this time, she explains, were women and children. Not only physical violence but the battleground of education were affecting children’s lives. Many women were also affected by the loss of their husbands and sons.

During 1986–1987, during “counter-insurgency” operations, Nolitha’s own brother was arrested. Police beatings left him with brain damage which ultimately took his life. As Nolitha speaks of this time, she notes softly that, “It’s over, but the memories are still there.”



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