South African Royal Princesses unite against Gender Based Violence

By HRH Stella Sigcau

24 November 2020

Royal Princesses from various parts of South Africa have come together under the banner South African Princess Network (SAPN) to condemn Gender Based Violence (GBV). As part of their 16 days of activism campaign they will use their voices on various platforms to create awareness in this regard whilst also engaging in various projects to empower women.

Their activities include a GBV awareness raising video, a webinar and various empowerment projects in their areas and through various platforms. The GBV awareness raising video will be released on 25 November 2020 on various social networks. The slogan of their campaign is "a life free from violence is our right. Break the silence, raise your voice and stand up against GBV". The slogan, “a life free from violence is our right" has been used in various countries to campaign against GBV and according to UN Women, “a life free of violence and discrimination is the right of every woman”.

GBV is a global challenge which necessitates for various stakeholders to play their part in condemning and fighting this problem. It knows no borders. It does not discriminate based on religion or race, whether developed or developing country, whether one comes from a city or a village, whether educated or uneducated or whether poor or rich or young or old. GBV knows no boundaries. It takes place in public or private spaces, at homes and at work places. It has been used as a weapon of war which saw many women sexually abused and violated. In some instances it leads to femicide. In South Africa during lockdown due to Covid 19 there have been a number of reported cases of femicide. This period saw a rise in GBV reported cases in general. Clearly this illustrates that there is something fundamentally wrong in our societies.

Abuse in general affects the very fibre of society. It destroys and destabilizes. It breaks down societies and families. It destroys children. It takes away confidence and dignity. It undermines basic human rights. It is a never-ending cycle, hence there is a need for various stakeholders to engage vigorously to fight and eliminate GBV.

Traditional Leadership and Institutions have an important and active role to play in this regard as custodians of custom. Some of the customary practices need to be re-evaluated to determine whether they contribute and amount to any harm and form of abuse so that they are discontinued. Some of the concerns that have been raised in this regard include but are not limited to, genital mutilation which has been reported as a major human right concern in some African countries, ukuthwala (kidnapping of young girls for marriage) which is practiced in some parts of South African traditional societies and marrying off young girls depriving them of enjoying being children, the love of their families, nurturing, grooming, giving them opportunities to be the best they can ever be. Child pornography, trafficking of women and children, rape are some of the challenges that our societies face which undermine basic human rights and are a source and force of destruction. Men and young boys are not immune to these abuses as some women are also perpetrators of these crimes and injustices. Some of the victims don’t have access to the necessary support, some are afraid to speak up, some feel powerless, some are not aware of their rights and suffer quietly.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence an international campaign which runs every year since 1991 from 25 November which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women to 10 December which is the International Human Rights Day is one of the initiatives to tackle and fight the violence against women and children.

South African Royal Princesses have also decided to use this period to take a stand against GBV in their personal capacities, community roles and under the SA Princess Network initiatives. Some of the Royal Princesses who are members of South African Princess network are activists in this regard involved in various women empowerment and GBV awareness projects in their areas.

Princess Gabo Moroka from the Free State founded Lets Kangaroo which raises awareness about and support kangaroo care for every newborn child. Through the Princess Gabo Foundation, she will host a community prayer service dedicated to Gender Based Violence during the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence in Thaba Nchu, Free State Province. She will also launch the expansion of a community agricultural empowerment project, which she spearheads. Her passion about this agricultural project is that it seeks to address the very root causes of problems that aggravate Gender Based Violence within communities such as: unemployment, substance abuse, poverty, hunger etc. Through the Princess Gabo Foundation she focuses on the advocacy and support of reproductive, maternal, and child health.

Princess Stella Sigcau II from the Mpondo Kingdom in the Eastern Cape has been involved in various projects that empower women and children whilst fighting GBV since 2006 including donation of netball kits to empower girls at schools in the Mpondo Kingdom, skills development including of women and women cooperatives, facilitating workshops on child and women abuse with international NPOs like Impulse from Switzerland under Lwandlolubomvu Projects; anti child trafficking and anti child pornography workshops and awareness programs, donation of sanitary towels to schools, rural girls and Mpondo reed dance maidens working with various stakeholders. For this year’s 16 days of activism she will continue to raise donations for the sanitary towels to be donated. She is also working on a project called cycling to create awareness on child trafficking and child pornography and hiking in Ntabankulu to create awareness on GBV whilst promoting environmental tourism.

Princess NomaXhosa Jongilanga of Imidutshane in the Rharhabe Kingdom, Eastern Cape has also been involved in women empowerment projects in her community which include sewing and bearding initiative. She has worked with various stakeholders to donate relevant infrastructure to empower these women including bearding machines. Through her initiative, 9 industrial sewing machines for Ncera Womens Association were bought. Her initiatives also include provision of baby food and clothes to mothers of babies from 1-9 months. She will continue with this initiative throughout the 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

GBV is a grave concern and challenge globally. Royal Princesses of South Africa are determined to play their part in fighting this challenge.