16 Days of Activism sheds light on rural healthcare challenges in the fight against GBV

In a united global effort, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) kicked off on Saturday, 25 November and came to an end on Sunday, 10 December, igniting conversations and actions against GBV.

Conversations about violence against women and girls are important because they serve as a critical tool for raising awareness about the prevalence and various forms of gender-based violence, shedding light on the often-hidden aspects of this issue. By openly addressing the challenges women and girls face, societies can collectively work towards dismantling harmful stereotypes, norms, and attitudes that perpetuate such violence. These conversations also play a crucial role in breaking the silence that often surrounds instances of abuse, providing a supportive environment for survivors to share their experiences and seek help. 

According to Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, who released the crime statistics for the second quarter of 2023/2024 on 17 November, between July and September, 1,514 incidents of attempted murder involving female victims were reported, accompanied by a disturbing 14,401 Assault GBH incidents where females were victims. Tragically, the vulnerability extends to children, with 293 young lives lost to brutal attacks and abuse during the same period. Additionally, children faced 361 incidents of attempted murder and 1,820 Assault Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) incidents. 

The gravity of the situation intensifies with the revelation that 10,516 rape incidents were reported to the SAPS between July and September. Alarmingly, 4,726 of these rape incidents occurred either at the victim’s home or at the home of the perpetrator, with the perpetrators often known to the victim, such as a family member, friend, or neighbour.

As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is being observed, attention should be drawn to the unique challenges faced by rural communities, particularly in the realm of healthcare. While the campaign primarily focuses on combating gender-based violence, it is essential to recognize the interconnected issues affecting rural areas, where limited access to resources exacerbates existing problems.

Rural areas often struggle with inadequate healthcare infrastructure, posing a significant obstacle to addressing gender-based violence. Rural locations, sparse populations, and a lack of healthcare facilities contribute to a scenario where victims face difficulties accessing essential services and support. The consequences are severe, as survivors may be left without proper medical care, counselling, or legal assistance.

One of the critical issues is the shortage of healthcare professionals in rural areas. Limited availability of trained personnel, including medical practitioners and mental health experts, creates a significant gap in the provision of services for survivors. This affects the efforts to address the physical and psychological aftermath of gender-based violence.

Moreover, rural communities often struggle with societal norms that perpetuate gender-based violence, making it harder for survivors to come forward and seek help. Stigma, fear of retaliation, and a lack of awareness about available support services contribute to a culture of silence, hindering the eradication of gender-based violence.As the 16 Days of Activism2023 comes to an end, the spotlight on rural health issues serves as a reminder that eradicating gender-based violence requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach. By addressing the specific challenges faced by rural communities, there should be hope to create a more equitable and supportive environment for survivors and contribute to the broader goal of ending gender-based violence worldwide.