We do this through both telephone and face-to-face counseling which is offered free of charge to survivors and their families. Our trained counsellors support survivors along the path to recovery.
What is a Feminist leader?
We all know that women’s rights are under threat in South Africa because of violence, poverty and inequality. South Africa needs leadership that encourages individual women to work at understanding and shifting the oppressive power dynamics that keep harmful and oppressive systems in place.
Anyone can be a leader, whether they hold the title of a leader in an organisation or not. But what does it mean to be a feminist leader? This is a question that we at Rape Crisis have been thinking deeply about from the time the organisation was founded in 1976. We have not always made this thinking clear or visible to others, but a recent grant from the African Women’s Development Fund has allowed us to explore the topic more and to be more open about exploring the question of power in our organisation.
We all know that women’s rights are under threat in South Africa because of violence, poverty and inequality. This affects us in our homes and in our communities, but most of all in our work because we work for an organisation that:
- Offers services to rape survivors
- Educates communities about the harmful norms and stereotypes that promote violence against women
- Advocates for change that will improve the criminal justice system for rape survivors.
Because we do this work we know that, well beyond the scope of our own endeavours, South Africa needs leadership that encourages individual women to work at understanding and shifting the oppressive power dynamics that keep harmful and oppressive systems in place. By oppressive we mean harsh, authoritarian treatment of others by powerful people, making sure that less powerful people are kept down. These dynamics appear in ourselves, in the people around us and in society.
Oppressive power dynamics are the things that make us feel that because we are women we are less than men, and that we deserve less than men when it comes to pay, holding positions of power, sharing our opinions and making decisions. As a result we accept poor wages, do not apply for powerful positions, remain silent when others give their opinions and hesitate to make certain decisions.
We need to shift these thoughts, feelings and ideas about ourselves because they are not true. Women deserve to be paid well, to be leaders, to voice our opinions and to make decisions.
It is harmful for us to believe that this is not so because it makes us believe that women are submissive and subservient to the needs of men. The harm that comes from this, is men’s ongoing violence against women, the fact that we are not kept safe from this, that we are often blamed for this and that our recourse to justice is filled with so many obstacles that in the end not enough rapists are punished.
That is why it is important that we not only work to bring about this shift within ourselves but also to lead in a way that brings about a change in larger and larger numbers of women so that they feel empowered to bring about change at every level of the systems that influence the way we live our ordinary everyday lives.
How do we lead in ways that empower other women? Make sure to Read our next blog on “The Roles of Feminism“.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year the priority theme is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women and in mainstreaming a gender perspective in UN activities.
During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organisations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York. They discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women. Member States agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic and social fields.
Methods of Work
The Commission adopts multi-year work programmes to appraise progress and make further recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action. These recommendations take the form of negotiated agreed conclusions on a priority theme. At each session the Commission:
- Engages in general discussion on the status of gender equality, identifying goals attained, achievements, gaps and challenges in relation to implementation of key commitments;
- Focuses on one priority theme, based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly;
- Holds a high-level roundtable to exchange experiences, lessons learned and good practices on the priority theme;
- Evaluates progress in implementing agreed conclusions from previous sessions as a review theme;
- Convenes interactive panel discussions on steps and initiatives to accelerate implementation, and measures to build capacities for mainstreaming gender equality across policies and programmes;
- Addresses emerging issues that affect gender equality;
- Considers in closed meeting the report of its Working Group on Communications;
- Agrees on further actions for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women by adopting agreed conclusions and resolutions;
- Contributes gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental bodies and processes; and
- Celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it falls within its session.
The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women is currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until 22 March 2019. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from all regions of the world are expected to attend the session.
This year the priority theme is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.
When infrastructure, public services and social protections are lacking, women and girls are often the ones that feel the greatest impact. Their needs must be factored in when policies are designed. Their voices must shape the decisions that affect their lives.
At the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust we are interested in the South African government’s promise to roll out specialised sexual offences courts across the country so that all rape survivors have access to the support they need, when they testify against rapists in court. The infrastructure required in these courts can be extensive and include separate entrances, waiting rooms and bathroom facilities for survivors so that they do not interact with the accused rapist and become distressed before they even enter the court room. It also includes Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in court rooms together with a separate intermediary room from which vulnerable rape survivors such as children, survivors suffering extreme trauma and survivors with mental disabilities can testify. Private consulting rooms for rape survivors to meet with a court supporter before they testify must also form part of this court layout. Many courts will need rebuilding to accommodate this kind of infrastructure. Our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) is designed to make sure our government provides the infrastructure required.
Read our next blog on why CSW63 matters to all of us and join us and share your experiences and ideas about specialised sexual offences courts to make sure that #CSW63 knows and understands this issue. We have put together a social media package to help you.
Our mission is to promote safety in communities, to reduce the trauma experienced by rape survivors, to empower women, to promote gender equality, to strengthen the criminal justice system and to work actively to address flaws in legislation.