Speaking up against gender-based violence

Malia November, Hayley Langley and Godfrey Southgate.

A Heathfield resident has committed herself to standing on the corner of Roscommon and Main Road in Bergvliet every Sunday to protest against gender-based violence.

This week, the woman dedicated her protest to Tazne van Wyk, the 8-year-old girl from Ravensmead who was kidnapped and found murdered in a stormwater pipe in Worcester.

Hayley Langley said that she wanted to encourage other people across the country to stand on the corner of their streets too and also protest.

She said that people’s interest in putting an end to gender-based violence was inconsistent.

“I want to encourage people to keep using your voice every week, even when there’s not a high profile march. We can’t stop. We need to be heard,” she said.

“Every Sunday from 8am to 9am I stand on the corner of Dreyersal Road with other protesters who are part of the Warriors group. It’s a Facebook group that started three months ago. I’ve also committed myself to then standing here from 10am to noon (corner of Roscommon Road and Main Road). My house is just down the road from here. I’m marking this as my corner. Imagine if everyone did this on the corner of their streets. Imagine the difference it would make,” she said.

Ms Langley carried a poster that read “Hoot for justice for Tazne. #AVoiceForTheFallen” this Sunday.

She was accompanied by a few other protesters who are also part of the Warriors group, who carried placards and wore all black.

Cars passing by hooted in support. She said she felt very happy with how the residents have been responding.

The Warriors started their mission over three months ago after the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Ms Mrwetyana was a 19-year-old University of Cape Town student who was raped and murdered in August last year by a post office employee, Luyanda Botha, In November, Mr Botha received three life sentences for the rape and murder of Ms Mrwetyana.

The Warriors group was founded by Heather Dickie Clark, a Bergvliet resident who assists woman in abused situations by taking them to safe houses.

Their Warriors group mission is to get people to mobilise in their areas so that they can get the attention of the country’s leaders.

Godfrey Southgate, a Heathfield resident, shouted “Hoot to stop killing women and children. It’s enough,” on Sunday.

He said that he could point out about three to seven women who had been violated by men.

He said that he had made a promise to himself as a man to be active in the gender-based violence marches across the city since last year.

“I remember after Nene’s death (Uyinene Mrwetyana) we even marched to the CTICC and got the president to come out of his meeting and talk to us that day. He made so many promises. None of that has happened since. We need to hold him accountable,” he said.

Ms Langley said that the purpose of the protest was to raise awareness, and to also send a message that you do not fight violence back with violence.

Ms Langley said that people were very responsive on Facebook but did not always come out in numbers.

“The whole point of choosing intersections close to people’s homes is so that they can’t use the excuse of the protest is too far,” said Ms Langley.

She said that a lot of women had their own story to tell about gender-based violence, and it was important that everyone acted to try and put an end to it.

“People need to get out of their comfort zone and come to the streets. It’s not a choice anymore. We have to come out and shut this thing down,” said Mr Southgate.

There are currently 30 people on the Warriors group on Facebook. Even though the group is growing slowly, Ms Langley says it is making an impact.

“I think South Africans have become very desensitised to these things, and it’s important that we remind them. We also need to make the prisons like cages, so that violent criminals become scared to go to prison. They must get one meal a day,” she said.

“This country is going down a slippery slope I think. That little girl did not do anything to deserve what happened. My heart goes out to the Van Wyk family.

“The sad thing is so many families are still going to go through that. We need to stop being divided over race and demographics in this country. We are in a state of crisis,” she said.