What our scholars have to say this Women’s Month

In celebration of Women’s Month, we asked our SPARK scholars to give their views on issues affecting women in South Africa.

Dannika Henry is a scholar at SPARK Randburg High School.

14-year-old SPARK Randburg High learner Dannika Henry believes that if we stood together we can end the scourge of violence against women.

In this moving letter written by Henry, she poses questions that everyone in society should be asking themselves. Her letter reads as follows.

My ideal society would be one in which we are all treated fairly, one where we all feel safe and protected. I know this sounds idealistic because we have been fighting this equality war for ages and have still not achieved our desired outcome. Everyone gets discriminated against, whether it’s due to your race, gender or even your religion.

Many of these are circumstances we cannot change. We live in a society that is still largely dominated by men – “be a man” or “man up” are expressions that imply strength, courage and aggression. But men cannot be considered superior simply based on their gender.

“We need to end this culture of toxic masculinity. We are all equal and we should not accept anything less.”

Women should be treated with respect

Discrimination of women at home, at school and at work should not be accepted simply based on gender. Unfortunately, a large part of the South African society still experiences this type of gender inequality and fixing the problem will take time and effort by everyone involved.

Thousands of women are victimised every day based only on the fact that they are women. I have been fortunate enough to grow up without experiencing gender-based violence but I feel that I should not be considered lucky – this should be normal. South Africa is currently
experiencing femicide, the rate of killings of women and girls has become unnaturally high.

A call to end Gender-based violence

These killings are very often done by intimate partners of the victims and with the rate of the murders being one every three hours, there are thousands of women that fear for their lives every single day.

With the recent development of the Coronavirus pandemic in South Africa, gender-based violence has increased drastically with vulnerable families locked down at home with nowhere else to go to escape the abuse. I am encouraged that our government has made some moves toward addressing the problem but the progress is hardly noticeable.

Men must take accountability

I am just a 14-year-old girl and there is not much I can do by myself, but if we all stand together and protest together via petitions, peaceful protests and demanding justice we could make a difference.

Today a woman in South Africa has to be aware of what she wears, where she goes and who she chooses to associate with. Should we teach our girls how to dress or teach our boys to respect women? In the face of gender-based violence, the victim is often questioned: “What were you wearing?” or, “What did you say/do to provoke him?” I feel that this is absolutely

We shouldn’t blame the victim for the abuser’s complete lack of self-control.
Some men tend to let their desires control them. They need to be taught respect and self-control, however, many lack this and are unwilling to learn.

We need to find solutions

So I feel that all women should have a basic knowledge of self-defence. I am aware that most women do not have access to such training but I feel that this is a great area for the government or civil society to step in and make
a difference.

Also, if we can teach children from primary school age about the correct way to treat women this could help to shape the values of the next generation (even when their parents are modelling different behaviour at home).

I heard that the Department of Basic Education is thinking of providing aftercare centres for all children in government schools. I think they should include such lessons in the CQ/LO part of their curriculum.

This would help girls understand their worth and never to tolerate abuse from anyone and it would teach boys that you never hit a woman no matter what she did or said or wore.

Women shouldn’t have to suffer because men feel the need to prove their superiority over them. Men should not resort to violence to prove their dominance and express their frustration.
We need to end this culture of toxic masculinity. We are all equal and we should not accept anything less.

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