Activism is one of the ways through which young people express their feelings, impede and interfere in social, political, economic and environmental reform in the society in order to make changes. In South Africa, youth activists play a major role in putting an end to all forms of misconduct and violence against the young people. These violence includes: Gender based violence (GBV), which can be physical, psychological, financial, verbal abuse, emotional and economical violence. Young women and girls are more susceptible to GBV because most acts of GBV are committed by men against young women and girls. Perpetrators of GBV are usually close associates or spouses. GBV can lead to serious physical, psychological health problems, depression and eventually death. There is no discrimination in age, race, religion and culture of penetrators and victims involved in GBV. Victims and survivors of GBV are often helpless and traumatised. It is therefore imperative for all young people to work in collaboration with the government in order to stop the scourge of violence in the Country. Although youth activism against GBV has been on the rise in South Africa, however, the youth needs to intensify more effort through their actions. The 16 days of activism against gender based violence (GBV) is an annual international event that was initiated by activists during the inaugural Women’s Institute in 1991. Ever since its inauguration, it has become a yearly event under the coordination of Center for Women’s Global Leadership.
A vast number of young people have also become critical stakeholders and advocates for social and gender related issues in all spheres of the country. Some youths are involved in the establishment of social movements, demonstration, and staging of protests in order to kick against gender-based violence and ill-treatment of young people. Young activists and youth-led movements are becoming conscious of the challenges, risks and the threat of gender-based violence on women and girls across the country. They tend to display tremendous courage in organising social change by questioning political, societal conventions and addressing stereotypes that support the problem. Today, a number of youth participate in gender activism ranging from gender inequalities, feminisation of poverty and violence against women and girls. Notably, a youth-led protest took place in the year 2020, in four major cities of South Africa: Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria, where massive protesters moved on the street to stand against the rising rate of the brutal gender-based violence in South Africa.
According to the most recent data, 1,468 crime were perpetrated in Western Cape Town in the third quarter of 2021, and a vast majority of the cases amounted to rape. Also, the rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest recorded in the world. It is worthy of note that between 2015 and 2016, there were about 51,895 crimes of a sexual nature reported to the South African Police Service. Moreover, a publication by Statistics South Africa, titled Crimes Against Women in South Africa reported that, about 21 percent of women had experienced sexual attack in their lifetime and two in five women had been beaten by their domestic partners. People who survive violence endure physical pain and suffering and may also experience mental distress, reduced quality of life and eventually death. For instance, the death of a 19 year old Uyinene Mrwetyanawake, who was murdered by her rapist, ignited a protest across the country. South Africa has always handle the issues related to violence against females, and this is a reflection of the prevailing social and economic conditions, which has been made worse by the country’s history of apartheid. Despite the laws and progress made to promote women equality and safeguard their right, it is so disheartening to see that, the level of violence against women and girls keep rising in South Africa. Although the South Africa government has reinforced efforts to eliminate gender-based violence through signing three anti gender-based violence (GBV) into law in January, 2022. This includes: amendments to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters), Amendment Act, and the Criminal and Related Matters. This introduces online applications for protection orders against perpetrators of domestic violence. However this response efforts need to be supported and complemented by preventive measures. Therefore, it becomes important for all young activists to work towards eradicating GBV and all other violence by addressing the following underlying and connected causes.
Causes of violence in South Africa
Alcoholism: Alcohol intoxication has led to so many crimes in society. This is evidenced by the drastic reduction in crime rate as attested by South Africa’s police minister Hon. Bheki Cele during COVID-19 lockdown when alcohol sales were banned. Immediately, the ban on alcohol was lifted on 1st June 2020, there was a sharp increase in crime rate including killings of women. This necessitated the reason the South African President tagged the two weeks after the alcohol ban was lifted as “dark and shameful”. This suggests that alcohol influence can lead to crime, especially crime against women and girls.
Low level of education: Low level of education is also one of the major causes of crime rates such as GBV in South Africa. This was established in a study by Tshabalala in KwaZulu-Natal province. He concluded that a low level of education leads to a high rate of unemployment and has a direct correlation with the high rate of crime. He further recommended creation of educational programmes and training which can be helpful in the acquisition of needed skills for employment in order to reduce crime rate.
Increase in unemployment rate: There is a link between unemployment and crime rates in South Africa. South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. According to International Monetary Fund, the unemployment rate in 2019 is 28.7% and it is forecasted to be 35.3% in December 2020. Unemployment as reported by News24 can lead to poverty/idleness which in turn lead to crime such as GBV. There is a possibility that the creation of job opportunities may reduce GBV.
Low level of women empowerment: Women in particular, are the most affected by unemployment in South Africa, rendering them economically vulnerable and open to abuse. Statistics show that financial dependence plays a role in domestic violence and often causes women to return to their abusive partners. Empowering women will go a long way in eradicating domestic violence in South Africa.
Youth activism in South Africa: why it matters
There is a need to encourage activism by the youth in South Africa because it is effective and helps to reduce the rate of violence and crime in the country. Below are some of the reasons why youth activism should be promoted:
Unique passion and dedication
Youth activists tend to possess an incredible passion and dedication towards their cause. Young adults and students devote many hours out of their busy schedule to help others and make a change in society. With youth activism, we witness individuals who help the community not because they desire to profit, but simply because they believe in their mission. One of such activists is Munnira Katongole, a 17-year-old South African who fought for social change and climate justice. She reported that “Millions of women and girls are being abused and killed every day, simply for existing in this white, patriarchal society. She further stated that “I’m an unapologetic, radical, Black feminist and seeing young girls suffer and die, completely usually fuels my activism.”
The voice of our future
The youths are the future of the society and this means that their skills, knowledge, talents, and beliefs will help a great deal. The government needs to pay more attention to the youths and listen to them. They must show their support for positive actions and offer suggestions for improvement.
The youth has brought about great changes to the country through their organizations. They help to provide free tutoring for students and give care packages to low-income families. At the same time, youth have created massive awareness campaigns through online platforms and one on one contact to the people in authority and this has led to great changes in South Africa.
Youth activism is the first step to cultivating strong and passionate individuals who will lead South Africa into a positive future. So far, youth activism had played a major role in putting an end to violence, challenges, slavery, protecting workers, promoting gender equality, opposing racism and many more benefits in South Africa. Therefore, encouraging youth activism in our world will sensitize the new generation that they have the capability to stand up and advocate for their beliefs.