On August 1, thousands of womxn* marched in South Africa, under the banner of The Total Shutdown Movement. They demanded that the government take decisive action against the problem of gender-based violence plaguing womxn. The Total Shutdown Movement presented a list of 24 demands to the government.
One of the demands from the movement was for the government to “establish and drive a multi-stakeholder and comprehensive process to address and reduce gender-based violence against womxn (GBVAW) and a commitment to announce the dates of a national gender summit before 30 August 2018.”
In October, the government announced that the gender summit would be taking place on November 1 and 2 in Pretoria, bringing together academia, United Nation agencies, parliamentary oversight bodies, traditional leaders, artists, and the religious sector. The programme of the summit was finalised on October 24 with the movement being heavily involved in the planning of it.
Speaking to The Daily Vox, a team leader with the Total Shutdown, Brenda Madumise-Pajibo said, “Our objective is to weave the 24 demands into the summit and its conclusions and declarations.” Madumise-Pajibo said they have developed five thematic areas – prevention, accountability, laws and policies, coordination, and support and response – with demands linked to those to be developed and implemented.
The biggest frustration directed at the government has been the lack of implementation of anything agreed upon – which is why the movement is placing an emphasis on accountability and prevention.
New finance minister Tito Mboweni gave his maiden medium-term budget on October 24. In the run-up to the speech, the Total Shutdown released a press briefing – calling on Mboweni to set aside adequate resources to tackle gender-based violence in South Africa. Madumise-Pajibo says they have been “consistent in calling for a gender-responsive budget.”
The Gauteng Community Health Care Forum announced that they would not be attending the summit as the organisation continues to be weary of government-aligned initiatives to fight gender-based violence. In a statement released, the organisation says: “The Gender Summit is not pro-working class women as it claims – it remains a process of middle class women that use working class women as token for their own interests.”
Along with this criticism, the movement has addressed the continued politicisation of gender-based issues by the government. Madumise-Pajibo says they are mindful of that – and it is a daily struggle to ensure gender-based violence is not made into a party issue.
Many summits are held in South Africa: just recently a jobs, health, and investment summit were held with no concrete outcomes. The movement says the gender summit was a call from the womxn of this country – which makes it different from other summits.
The summit and the demands presented have been a challenge to the government, Madumise-Pajibo says which has: “Forced them to really look into why they have failed with implementing their policies – and to change how they approach gender-based violence.”
“As a movement, we will continue to agitate, advocate and lobby for the decisions that will be taken and implemented. We are not stopping at the summit. The work continues and the government will realise there is a intersectional pressure group of resolute womxn who will hold them accountable. If push comes to shove, we will go back to the streets. If you fail us – we have to choice to vote you out,” says Madumise-Pajibo
*womxn is used to refer to women and gender non-conforming people.