Too often, brutal stories of gender-based violence (GBV) will make headlines and remind us that this form of brutality happens every day. However, Namhla’s story cuts deep. Moreover, there are so many Namhla’s out there going through the same hell with no one listening. Her screams have not been just for the much-reported 24 hours. She has been screaming for help.
It saddens me whenever I see pictures and videos of abuse of the deceased surface on social media. These visuals tell me that someone if not more people knew about the abuse. Why do we wait until she no longer breathes to speak up? Indeed there has to be something we can do beyond the JusticeFor hashtags. Why do we take “action” when they are dead? When you saw her black eye, swollen face, and bruises on her body, what action did you take then?
There is something we are doing wrong as a society. We are failing our women. It is not enough to seek justice when someone has lost their life. Seek justice and protect them while they are still alive. We are all familiar with the phrase #ungenaphi and phrases like mind your own business, don’t stick your nose in other people’s business. Have these phrases muted us? Have they silenced us? It is crucial for us to know and understand when to intervene and when to start minding the business of others. No matter how uncomfortable it might be, take a stand, and call out abuse. When your friend shares a picture of her bruised face, take a stand. #Ngenalapho! When you notice that someone is being abused, make it your business. So often, victims of abuse can’t even fight for themselves, fight on their behalf.
Many women are screaming as we speak. Dying as we speak. Madoda kwenzenjani? Senzeni kangaka that our lives mean so little. Rhulumente senzeni. Our struggles and horrors can no longer be reduced to media statements and JusticeFor hashtags. Yhooo hayi kubuhlungu shame. I did not know Namhla, but I KNOW Namhlas. I was Namhla; I survived but way too many do not survive.
I lead a school for girls, I am a biological mother to a teen girl and a mother to many girls, and it pains me to think that any of them could be next. I mentor women, and I work with women, and it pains me to think that any of them could be next. I might have survived then, but I might be next too because, sadly, that is the nature and culture of our society; women are brutalised and killed every day. Women live in spaces filled with misogynists.
GBV is a universal crisis, and globally, one in three women will experience some form of gender-targeted violence in their lifetime. GBV is unacceptable, and we cannot sit in silence; change comes when we all take a stand. If we learn anything from Namhla’s story, let it be to enter what is deemed not our business. Let us make GBV our business.
Right now, you might know someone who is a victim of GBV. Take a stand – #Ngenalapho.
To our government, we don’t want another GBV conference. We want safe systems in place that make it easy and safe for anyone to report GBV. We are tired!
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