Recent protests against police brutality in Nigeria have captivated the minds and eyes of many across the globe. Through the lens of social media, the #EndSARS hashtag has shed a light on many other injustices that are occurring in other parts of the African continent. Most notably, the #AmINext and #StopGBV movements have shed a light on the issues of human trafficking, domestic violence and rape in portions of South Africa.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa had experienced some of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. In 2019, South Africa's Department of Police that nearly seven women were murdered per day. Further investigation from VOA found that "many of the female victims are brutally assaulted and raped before being murdered."
“It's been years. We are brutally victimized each and every day, every second. Am I next? It's fearing to live," South African resident Nomakhosazana Xaba said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, things only worsened. Within the first seven days of the country's lockdown, nearly 150 people were arrested and charged with crimes relating to gender-based violence. Adding on, more than 2,000 complaints of gender-based violence were made to police during the first week of lockdown.
This issue also exists in other countries across the globe. In the Central African Republic, the United Nations Development Program reported that injuries to women and children spiked by 69% during the pandemic. Within the same area, the UN found that reports of rape have increased by 27% since April. In the Central African Republic, 97% of gender-based violence victims have been female and 76% have been underaged.
In an effort to combat these issues, certain organizations like the Callas Foundation in South Africa have built programs to consistently check-in on women. Each day, the community coalition works to offer free meals to neighborhoods in an effort to see, meet and check-in on people daily during the country's COVID-19 lockdown.
"On the sixth day of lockdown, there was no movement. Then, we started noticing the women walking around in the area and that's when we started our daily food kitchens. In this way, we had access to women," Callas Foundation Director Caroline Peters said.
"The only time women exited their homes was to go to feeding schemes and feeding lines. We found intersections between food insecurity, gender-based violence, gangsterism and drugs, so we had to be innovative. We had to work out strategies that could keep women safe. So, you walk into a big space that looks like its a kitchen, but it's really a safe space for women."
Despite the recent spikes in race and gender-based violence, Peters believes that her work along with the efforts of others can do wonders to keep women and children safe.
"It hasn't been easy to watch how women come to the queues battered and bruised. You know the ones that don't want to make eye contact with you because they know that you know what they're going through," Peters explained.
"You're isolated, but you're not alone. We're in this together."
Photo: Getty Images