Tech firms take stand against gender-based violence

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 11 Dec 2023
Females were victims in 14 401 assault grievous bodily harm incidents between July and September 2023.
Females were victims in 14 401 assault grievous bodily harm incidents between July and September 2023.

South African tech firms have thrown their weight behind the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, joining the fight against the scourge of gender-based violence.

Held annually from 25 November to 10 December, the United Nations campaign focuses on raising awareness of the devastating impact gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) has on women and children, and the social fabric.

This year’s theme is: “Accelerating actions to end gender-based violence and femicide: Leaving no one behind”. The sub-theme is: “Safe access for women to clean water: a basic human right”.

According to government, the theme speaks to the importance of ensuring an all-society and multi-faceted approach to fight GBVF.

Vodacom SA says it recently completed building the Thuthuzela Care Centre in Cradock, Eastern Cape, which provides a basket of services for victims of GBVF.

The centre is one of many across the country, established in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit, and various departments and donors. A total of 51 centres have been established since 2006.

Working with government and civil society organisations, Vodacom says its GBVF ecosystem approach includes prevention and response, as well as victim support and empowerment.

“Our GBVF initiatives include training victims of GBVF in the Department of Social Development-overseen shelters, psychosocial support in schools, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, and building Thuthuzela centres in partnership with the NPA, for referral of victims of GBVF and the Bright Sky SA app,” says a Vodacom SA spokesperson.

Launched by Vodacom in 2020, the Bright Sky SA mobile app provides support and information for anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, or for those concerned about someone they know.

Furthermore, Vodacom says its digital literacy programme – for those affected by gender-based violence – has trained in excess of 2 000 affected people since inception.

According to the second quarter crime statistics, between July and September 2023, 1 514 incidents of attempted murder involving female victims were reported.

Furthermore, females were victims in 14 401 assault grievous bodily harm incidents reported to the police during the period.

Children have not been spared from the brutal attacks and abuse, with 293 children killed between July and September 2023, according to the report.

Nompilo Morafo, chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer at MTN Group.
Nompilo Morafo, chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer at MTN Group.

MTN says it has leveraged innovative technology and strategic partnerships to combat GBVF. The telecoms operator has developed a portal that provides information on GBVF, including tools, resources and emergency contacts across numerous markets.

"The staggering number of women affected by gender-based violence globally requires more than just awareness – it demands action. GBVF is a crisis that transcends borders and cultures,” says MTN group chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer Nompilo Morafo.

Cell C says this year it is running the #OrangeYourWorld campaign, to support the 16 Days of Activism campaign. As part of this initiative, its employees will today handover 200 comfort bags − which include hygiene products and essentials – to safe houses that assist survivors of GBVF.

“Cell C is also actively collaborating with the Tears Foundation on a series of other initiatives, awareness campaigns and support programmes designed to raise awareness, and foster a safer environment for those affected by GBVF. The partnership with Tears Foundation aligns with Cell C’s values of social responsibility and community engagement,” says a Cell C spokesperson.

E-hailing firm inDrive SA partnered with local NGO Light UP, to introduce the Layita Khayelitsha campaign. The goal is to install and maintain 50 advanced solar lights by February 2024, across Cape Town's Khayelitsha township.

This will not only improve safety in public spaces, but also create local employment opportunities for those who will be installing the lights and maintaining them for the coming years, it says.

“This crucial initiative serves as a symbol of hope, not only for Khayelitsha, but also for other townships across SA. It offers a sustainable approach to improving community wellbeing and safety,” says Vincent Lilane, business development representative for inDrive Southern Africa.

E-hailing firm Bolt says it collaborated with Philisa Abafazi Bethu Women Centre, a GBVF-focused organisation based in Steenberg, Cape Town, to open an outdoor physical fitness centre on 25 November. Equipped with easy-to-use fitness equipment, the gym provides women and older persons with an accessible place to improve their physical well-being.