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It’s Time: African Women Join Hands Against Domestic Violence

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This wedding reception in Ethiopia – like anywhere in the world is filled with promise and hope for the future.


While only a cynic would think that all relationships leads down a path to abuse, it is recognized that domestic violence causes more deaths and disability worldwide among women between the ages of 15 and 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.


It has been called the greatest violation of human right in our world today.

00:01:18:00 00:02:08:07  


 In Canada, the cost of domestic violence is more than 4 billion dollars a year.


But nowhere are women and girls more at risk of violence than in their own homes or from a family member than in African countries like South Africa and Ethiopia.


But what are the forces that combine with age old cultural practices to create a culture of violence in which women and girls are the ultimate victims?


But this is not a story about failure – it is a story about hope. 


In Ethiopia, significant efforts are being made to protect women. More importantly, it is a tale that starts in South Africa – where progressive steps are being taken within in the legal system to reduce all forms of domestic abuse.


So that’s where this film starts after this story book beginning has faded


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 Johannesburg South Africa

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 This is Bethany House – one of many safe houses in South Africa for women who have been abused by their partners.


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 While there is a general relaxed feel among many of the 50 women and their children who now live here – their stories are dramatic.


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 And then I asked for a divorce in 2005.  When I asked for a divorce that is when he said we can’t separate that way.  If we are going to separate he pulled out a gun and shot me.  He discharged two bullets one in my face and one on my chest on the right hand right side.

He shot himself as well but we both didn’t die.

00:03:19:22 00:03:42:23 


 Basically what happens is that as soon as the women get here, we get them a protection order.  Obviously, that is priority number one.  Then we get their kids into school.  We get their documents sorted out. Quite often when they get here they have had everything burned, destroyed. They come here without ID documents, birth certificates and basically the clothes on their back. 

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 Bridget Edwards Bethany House

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 Mornings are busy here as the women get their children ready for school.


Asandra is getting her daughter fed and dressed. 


Asandra was on the road to Bethany House relatively early in life.


As a young teenager, she left her home in the Transkai because of a conflict with her stepfather. 


With no supporting family in Johannesburg, she ended up at a group home.


But like most people, she wanted more of the physical comforts of life.


And like many young women in South Africa, it required seeking out a relationship.

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But you want more. I don’t know what I wanted that’s what I was trying to figure out.


I got a boyfriend who had a car.


My boyfriend goes with a BMW, my girl friend goes with a Mercedes.


I met this guy who had a car, and he became my boyfriend.


I didn’t love him.


I can’t say I loved him because I didn’t.

I just liked him for what he had. 


He had a car so he could take me wherever.  If it is raining and the bus is not there he would come and pick me up.  If the bus is not there at that moment he would come immediately.  And after that around about November or December 2000 I got pregnant.


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 He said he would take care of me and the baby.  So I moved in with him. Then two years down the line, things were not so great.  He would beat me up.  I use to be already a wife. I became a wife. He use to beat me up. He use to force himself on me.

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 When they arrested him, I had to face the music to find out how I was going to live and my child if you don’t pay rent by the month end you have to move out.

00:06:09:07 00:06:33:05 


 The rate of most categories of violent crimes in South Africa is increasing.


For example, one in four women will flee their home because of domestic violence.


But it is not all bad news.


The court system is better responding to victim’s needs - especially for domestic violence. 


Drawn from Canadian experience, the legal process is changing to ensure women are not re-victimized by the system.


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 The root causes of domestic violence are complex deeply rooted in culture and linked to the history of a country.

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 Johannesburg is the financial centre of South Africa. It was built on the labour of millions of Black South Africans drawn to the region because of the gold mines.

Apartheid meant only Whites could enjoy the benefits.


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 So you have this Black man whose self of masculinity who’s sense of manhood is quite powerless in the work place but then having to go back to the home and Aparhied telling themg them you are powerful and you are the head of the family.


What would happen is that they would deal with the frustrations they had in the public sphere and they would take that into their family sphere where they felt that they had some sense of power and use that against the women.




 Nomfundo Mogapi Centre for the Study Violence and Reconciliation

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Apartheid is now history, but many people were left traumatized by the experience.  The TRC, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission revealed the magnitude of state crimes, but it did little for the psychological impact.

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But what has happened is that there hasn’t been sufficient work one in dealing with the impact of apartheid psychologically


And lot of the violence that was taking place in the home arena as a result of the political violence that has not been dealt with.


The TRC  tried to do that but it wasn’t sufficient


So we still have lots of men and women who are in management or in very powerful positions or others who may not have jobs who still have a lot of unresolved trauma. 


You see it you know, when you talk about apathy that sense of humiliation is still there for some of the men and the sense of self doubt.  That sense of not being good enough And it is still playing itself out. 


So that unresolved trauma is playing itself in the current domestic violence ….we call it culture of violence in our country, which absolutely impacts on how we deal with some of the issues have now.

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 ORANGE FARM Township Near Johannesburg

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Now when we organize a party, we cater for all kinds of different people.  And what kind of food they take.

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 Now the party we are going to organize today is something different because we are sharing, talking about experiences that we can over come and social problems we are facing.

00:10:02:24 00:11:15:11


 I think some of us grew up in that background of domestic violence.  But many years ago in the 60s , it was not called domestic violence.  It was like a culture, a tradition where a man can chase a wife and kids.. 

I grew up in that kind of family.  My father was so cruel I ended up hating him because he was abusive.


Weekends were bad.  My mother was not sleeping at home; we were asking for sanctuary from neighbours because when you are drunk.


As you young people then, it is a culture for a man to be like that - bullying, to be fighting to be chasing wife and children.


According to us it was not violence, it was a culture.


00:11:16:13 00:12:14:03


 When we get married, that is when the abuse starts, because when we get married. The is a time that the marriage is on Saturday. Most of the time on Sunday morning and both families meet, where you have a very small gathering, where they are going to talk to both of you. 

In most cases, whatever they are saying it is based on a woman.  You know most of the time what is the most of the time they say, you as a woman you have to ask a man.


If the man does not sleep at home, a man is not asked to do that.  ….


They never talk to a man and tell a man that this is what you got to do.  This is not what you are supposed to do. 


We are told as women we are not to ask our husbands, where they come from, when they come home after midnight


We are the ones who have to do everything, you don’t ask a man.  That is where the abuse starts…

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