That was Tumie Modise, a columnist at the Botswana news magazine Mmegi, railing against the unfulfilled promise of “16 days of activism for No Violence Against Women and Children” as she saw it.
The U.N. Women’s event of 16 days winds up this week on Dec. 10 – International Human Rights Day.
“Personally I won’t be commemorating the two weeks,” confessed Modise while making clear she was well aware of the problems women face. Child abuse, sexual and domestic violence, she noted, all violate human dignity and have long-lasting consequences both for women and their communities.
But “piecemeal funding” of the Botswana-based Emang Basadi, women shelters, and even law enforcement agencies leave them unable to change the problem at its roots, she opined.
“Every one of us has at some point experienced such violence against women and children, as victims or as witnesses,” she asserted. “We have all seen that lady at work, the one that returns every Monday, with bruises on her face and arms.”
Now, during these two weeks, she asked, are we to beg the abusers to hold their fire, like they are even listening?
A similar view was shared by Mondli Makhanya of the South African “City Press” who found the 16 days of activism little more than “pointless noise.”
“This lowly newspaperman prefers to call it the 16 Days of Violence, because there is no evidence that it makes any difference,” he said. “Year after year, violent men continue to beat up their partners for 365 days. It is arguably one of the most meaningless campaigns on the government’s calendar.
“Arbor Week, which is celebrated in early September, has more of an effect than this lame effort because we get to watch a tree grow.”
A few weeks ago, the step-daughter of Nelson Mandela acknowledged being beaten so brutally that she lost vision in one eye. Josina Machel asked how it was possible for men not to see their own mothers and sisters in the women they beat up.
“Between now and the end of the campaign period, there will be many speeches,” wrote Makhanya. “There will be pledges about redoubling of efforts to fight abuse.”
But, he cautioned, “On December 11, life will go back to normal. Men will beat up women. Women will scream. Neighbors will pretend they do not hear.
“If there has to be a 16-day blitz, it must be supported by a visible and sustained effort throughout the year,” he declared. It should also target men.
“Disrespect for female peers develops early. Violent tendencies creep in when boys convince girls that “I hit you because I love you”.
“These tendencies are normalized by a society that doesn’t actively shun abusers. And the fight against abuse is trivialized by meaningless campaigns.”