By Lindiwe Miyambu, Group Executive for Human Capital at African Bank
As we celebrate Women’s Month and focus on the theme of “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”, I felt that this was a good time to refocus our energy on gender-based violence (GBV), particularly in the workplace. Workplace bullying thrives because the perpetrators wield their power with such arrogance that they believe the recipient will not speak up. Sadly, they are often correct.
I feel we have to approach the campaign against GBV as an ever-present obligation in the greater scheme of our rights and responsibilities as citizens.
A Pressing Human Rights Issue
In acting upon the resolve to add my voice to the rising chorus of anti-Gender-Based-Violence pleas, my first instinct was to approach it from the angle of Human Resource Management, my particular field of expertise. The more I thought about it, however, the more apparent it became that it is impossible to compartmentalise the myriad of issues that GBV throws into sharp focus. While it is true that work forms a major part of our adult lives, and the workplace is indeed the site of many a struggle, the alarmingly widespread incidence of violence against women and children in South Africa today, mark it out as a pressing human rights issue.
As we amplify our voices and intensify our efforts in the fight against the societal scourge that is GBV, it will be important to realise that the sheer scale of the problem means that we cannot defeat this foe by fighting in silos. The foundation we must build upon is one that prioritises solidarity, singularity of purpose, and compassion as the cornerstones of our movement towards restoration.
The Noticeable Spike
Having lived with the Covid-19 pandemic for the last 18 months, it is concerning that there has also been a noticeable spike in the preponderance of violence against women and children. Often, it has felt like we are faced with two pandemics, with the more vulnerable lives in our midst caught between a twin-pronged assault on their safety and wellbeing. Often, in the justifiable outrage over the mind boggling violence that GBV entails, it becomes tempting to lose sight of the fact that there is no possibility of building a wall between victims and perpetrators. The building blocks of the human family, the natural human need for companionship, the inextricable ways in which, as a social species, our collective welfare is bound up together, mean that the solution lies only in finding each other again.
There is a great and pressing work to be done, in addressing the root causes of GBV. We need to strive to find the dignity of our shared humanity. This means that, in the family as well as in the workplace, the idea that one gender is superior to another must end.
A Power Play?
The obsession with power must give way to a renewed appreciation of our common humanity. Our differences must once again, as intended, give rise to cooperation and collaboration, not cut throat competition and domination. The girl child must be rescued from her long relegation into the margins of potential and possibility, and the boy child must be socialised into accepting equality as a given. In the workplace, the interactions between colleagues must be divested of dynamics that have no place in professional environments. Women and children must be safe, both in the home and beyond its walls.
It is important to remember the sacrifices of those who have gone before, titans who lived their lives in earnest pursuit of justice. To these selfless pioneers of struggle, heroic women who fought to liberate this country, we owe a continued striving towards their vision. The present is also a place that demands our active participation, just as future generations can only inherit the world we strive to create.
The commitment towards building a society free of GBV is one that we are all duty-bound and capable of making. We must all commit. We must all believe, and act.
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