By APHIWE NGOWAPI
A new film launched this week by the Eastern Cape-based Isikhalo Womxn’s Movement features women from Bathurst, Kariega and Makhanda speaking of their experiences with gender-based violence (GBV) from their partners, and how they are failed by police and society.
“Beyond 16 Days” was filmed in a series of workshops held with about 70 women from Kariega, Makhanda and Bathurst during the 16 days of Activism in 2022. Directed entirely by the women themselves, the film depicts anonymised women discussing their own experiences of GBV. It contains a powerful call for men ranging from uncles to grandfathers to husbands to stop abusing women.
The launch of the online film follows an activist photo exhibition in the form of a protest that took place in Makhanda in December 2022.
Anelisa Bentele, one of the Isikhalo Womxn’s Movement co-ordinators said the organisation was established in 2022 because of the alarming statistics of GBV in the province and country as a whole.
“Through this film, we are trying to make the community members aware of what GBV is and what
steps to take if they are victims of abuse, whether it is sexual, physical or emotional. The film provided
victims with a safe space and platform to come out to the public about abuse they have experienced and motivate other silent victims to speak out about abuse” said Bentele.
One of the victims interviewed on the film said it was impossible to identify GBV perpetrators by their appearance because they were often the most respected people in their neighbourhood.
“At home they never believed I was being beaten by this man. To them it would be like I was the one who messed up,” says one of the victims, speaking about a previous abusive relationship. She added that this is the sad reality for most women who are abused by their partners and one of the reasons why many never report cases of abuse, especially to police officials.
Another victim described how her ex-husband poured petrol around the house one day and threatened to burn her and her children. She and her children only escaped by asking him to allow them to pray in another room where they escaped out of the window. “I left that marriage because of my abusive husband. I knew that every Friday to Sunday, there won’t be peace at home,” she said.
She added that married victims often cover up for their spouse’s abuse in the name of love. This left the children at risk of abuse too.
About four young women and girl children were raped in Bathurst during the last two months of 2022, while the film was being made.
“Every weekend a woman is raped or murdered,” a community member of Ward Five in Bathurst said.
“There are not enough South African Police Services staff and vehicles to assist these victims, as when one victim calls for help, they are busy assisting other victims. We do not have community services here like counselling,” she added.
She pointed out that the community only had one clinic which could not possibly serve all the residents or provide adequate support for GBV victims.
Another Isikhalo Womxn’s Movement co-ordinator, Phumla Runeli said women had had enough. “If our cry is not heard, we will take the law into our own hands” she said.
In South Africa, an astonishing one-third or up to 50% of girls and women aged 15 years and older have been physically or sexually abused by their partners, says the Isikhalo Women’s Movement. “This year we plan to bring in psychologists and social workers to assist survivors. We also want to show perpetrators that women are tired of the abuse and that they need to change their ways” said Bentele.
The Isikhalo Womxn’s Movement plans to visit schools to teach boy children against GBV, and will also host dialogues between men and women in the hopes of finding a solution to this pandemic.
The film was produced by Sizo Media of Makhanda.
Watch the film here: http://youtu.be/ipfRNcV2IZI