President Cyril Ramaphosa says that as the country enters level 4 of the lockdown on Friday, government has determined that people providing services to gender-based violence survivors will be allowed to work.
“As with all people returning to work, they would need to adhere to strict health protocols and social distancing rules,” Ramaphosa said.
He also said the coronavirus pandemic was heightening the risk of gender-based violence as women may be experiencing emotional and physical abuse behind the walls of their homes.
“This calls for heightened responsiveness, greater awareness and practical measures to assist women who find themselves in vulnerable situations,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa made these remarks on Thursday at a meeting of the interim committee on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
The steering committee, which comprises government and civil society delegates, presented reports detailing progress in the implementation of an emergency action plan on GBVF.
The action plan, which was launched by Ramaphosa in September last year, aims to combat violence against women and children through a co-ordinated government and civil society.
Ramaphosa said the protection of the rights of women and children was fundamentally tied to the country’s sense of nationhood.
“SA is one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman.
“Gender-based violence impacts black and white, young and old, rich and poor, heterosexual and people with diverse sexual orientation, gender-conforming or non-gender conforming, urban and rural.”
Ramaphosa said the protests that took place last year in response to a series of high-profile rapes and murders of women and girls were a clarion call from the women’s movement and all of society for more to be done to combat this scourge.
He said it was clear that a coherent and measurable strategy to deal with this growing problem was sorely needed.
“For this reason, I decided to locate the work of the interim steering committee in the office of the president.”
He said he was provided with regular weekly progress reports on their work.
Ramaphosa said the greatest achievement of the Emergency Response Action Plan was that it fundamentally changed how departments involved in the gender sector interacted and collaborated.
“It enabled government processes that ordinarily are fraught with red tape to be fast-tracked.”
He said the plan inculcated a smarter approach to using and managing resources because government departments had to stretch their apportioned budgets to meet ambitious targets.