By Joyce Nomagugu Msomi, Rise Up Leader since 2020, South Africa
Joyce, a Rise Up Leader in South Africa, is raising her voice for the rights of survivors of gender-based violence. With support from Rise Up, Joyce is advocating for more resources and better services to protect survivors and prevent gender-based violence in her community.
South Africa has high rates of femicide and gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual assault. Too often women and girls are silenced from speaking out to address GBV by fear and tradition, so I decided to make noise by raising awareness of and advocating to end GBV in my community. I wanted to make sure that no more women and girls are killed because of their gender, so I am helping ensure that women are well-educated about their rights and able to obtain immediate protection and seek justice without any fear of being killed.
The organization I founded, Ukukhanya Kwesizwe Community Development, offers survivors of GBV protection, counseling, and legal support when they go to court. We also assist survivors of GBV with economic empowerment, helping them build skills, find jobs, and become entrepreneurs.
When I became a Rise Up Leader, I learned more about advocacy and I learned how to collaborate with other organizations to achieve our common goal of ending GBV. I also learned to be bold, not only in making noise to end GBV but also in negotiating with government entities. Now, I am working to get the government to commit to better service delivery for GBV survivors in my community in South Africa’s eThekwini region.
To achieve this goal I identified and formed a committee of key stakeholders and presented our advocacy strategy to them, so they could understand and share our vision. We are also offering GBV awareness programs and creating spaces for GBV dialogues for women in the community. I will know I am successful when we get a signed commitment by the Minister of Social Development to establish another Thuthuzela Care Center, and GBV survivors in our community can get judgement-free care and services whenever they need them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in GBV because so many women and girls are locked down in the home with their abusers. Our organization has been overwhelmed with new cases of GBV, and on top of that, people have been getting sick and dying from COVID, and others are going hungry as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.
Despite these challenges, I am hopeful for a future where our community is free of GBV, where women and girls are able to rise up to be independent, take a stand, and make their voices heard without fear of being punished or killed.