Archbishop Thabo Makgoba speaks out against sexual violence at a campaign launch in South Africa

12 December 2013

From 25 November – 10 December Anglicans around the world have been calling for an end to violence against women in all its forms as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

To coincide with the 16 Days campaign, local churches united in South Africa to launch the We Will Speak Out South Africa coalition.  

A national event at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St Alban the Martyr, Pretoria, was led by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, and brought together local churches, the National Prosecuting Authority, UNAIDS, UN Women, Tearfund and HOPE Africa.

The call to form the We Will Speak Out South Africa coalition came from research commissioned by Tearfund into the experiences of survivors of sexual violence in South Africa and how the church had responded to them. The South Africa coalition would be affiliated to the existing global coalition, ‘We Will Speak Out’  (WWSO).  The global coalition is a group of Christian-based NGOs, churches and organisations, supported by an alliance of individuals, who together commit themselves to see the end of sexual violence across communities around the world.

We Will Speak Out  is committed to empowering women and girls, to transforming relationships between women and men, and to ensuring that the voices of survivors of sexual violence – women, girls, men and boys – are central to their work. We Will Speak Out has also launched campaigns in Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda andLiberia.

The research report Breaking the Silence was presented on 25 November 2013 at the national launch inSouth Africa and highlights the urgent need for the local and national church to unite across denominations and take immediate action to end sexual violence.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said, “Breaking the Silence speaks to the core of who we are as a nation, as a church seeking to reflect Jesus, and as communities who have desires and dreams for a different future. We have failed terribly as a community and as a nation in protecting our most vulnerable women and girls who have suffered violence, not once but many times over. Our faith teaches and gives us the foundation to build a violence-freeSouth Africa where men, women, boys and girls work together to bring peace for all. We speak out with one voice putting aside our differences and division.”

The key findings of the report are that:

  • Sexual violence is widespread acrossSouth Africaand has a deeply traumatising and damaging effect on survivors.
  • The church has often failed survivors of sexual violence. Many churches deepen the impact of sexual violence through their silence, stigma and discrimination. Some churches have not done enough to care for the marginalised or to speak out on their behalf.
  • The church is central to community life and has untapped potential to prevent and respond to sexual violence. It can provide care and support, stand alongside survivors seeking justice, and identify and challenge harmful attitudes and beliefs within society that perpetuate sexual violence.

To build on the national level launch and take forward the report findings, church leaders and women’s rights organisations took part in a crucial action-planning meeting on 26 November, to agree practical plans for how local churches can tackle sexual violence.

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In the picture: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba speaks out at the ‘We Will Speak Out – South Africa’ coalition launch.