Launch of interactive gender based violence online platform - UNICEF South Africa, Representative, Christine Muhigana

There is need for innovative platforms that allow women and children to seek help in a timely manner and know where their nearest service centres are.

Pretoria (virtual), 08 March 2021

Thank you -- Madame Programme Director, Ms Sonwabise Mzinyathi, SA Women in ICT Forum, Chairperson Honourable Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Department of Social Development Deputy Minister, Pinky Kekana, Department of Communications and Digital Technologies Mr Eldrid Jordaan, CEO Govchat Ms Phinah Kodisang, Soul City, CEO

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for inviting and associating UNICEF to the launch of this important innovative platform -- which demonstrates how technology can be harnessed to drive social change, especially to fight gender based violence and violence against children.

We appreciate the commitment of the President and the people of South Africa to end Gender Based Violence and violence against children, which can only happen if we transform the social norms, beliefs and behaviours which drive gender based violence.

Today, and for exactly one year, we live in a very different world – one in which the COVID-19 virus and the measures taken to contain its spread have left women and children in an even more vulnerable position.

Violence, exploitation, neglect and abuse against children was pervasive in the country, [and across the continent], even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Children have been far too often exposed to the horrors of violence, exploitation and abuse at home, in schools, in their communities and even on line.

Breaking this cycle of violence against children has been made that much harder by the impact of the virus. A recent global report from UNICEF entitled ‘Protecting Children from Violence in the Time of COVID-19’, noted how lockdowns placed children at increased risk of emotional abuse, physical violence and neglect when they are behind closed doors and away from school. Fortunately, the lockdown has now been reduced to Level 1, and schools have re-opened, but the impact on children has been felt and may have lasting impact, as they were often trapped as witnesses of intimate partners’ violence, if they didn’t experience direct abuse themselves.

Honourable Minister, in 2020, we received worrying reports. ChildLine South Africa reported a nearly 40 per cent rise in calls for help in August and subsequent months, compared to the same months the previous year (2019), while healthcare facilities are reporting a [consistent and] concerning number of severe injuries among child abuse referrals.

This demonstrates the need for these innovative platforms that allow women and children to seek help in a timely manner and understand where their nearest services and support structures are.

Despite the dire impact of COVID-19 and the setbacks it brought, recovery from the virus must be considered an opportunity to restructure the developmental model of Africa – to reduce inequality and ultimately to realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve that we need multiple partners - government, corporate, civil society, faith-based organisations, communities, young people and children themselves - to come together and to present clear and practical ways forward to enact change through a collective effort. That’s why UNICEF is so pleased to be part and support the launch of this interactive engagement platform which will allow victims of gender based violence and their families to access information on key social actors. Early intervention when women and children are in a situation of distress and at risk of GBV or another form of violence against children can now happen.

I applaud you, Honourable Minister, for your continued leadership -- to turn the tide against GBV and Violence against Children together with other line Departments, Govchat, civil society and citizens themselves and -- to ensure that women and children in distress receive timely information on support services they need as to access medial aid, social workers, police and justice services.

We look forward to the impact of this interactive platform and pledge our continued support to the establishment of innovative tools that strengthen the protection and improve the lives of every woman and child – a step forward in creating the nurturing environment that every women and child needs to live safely in a family and community, -- a step towards the realisation of a right for every child in South Africa.

Thank you very much and congratulations. We look forward to walking this journey with you.

Media contacts

Toby Fricker

Chief of Communication & Partnerships

UNICEF South Africa

Tel: +27 61 418 7486

Email: tfricker@unicef.org

Speech by
Author
Christine Muhigana
Representative
UNICEF
 Christine Muhigana
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund