Nqobile Ngcobo and Samantha Thomas
It is clear that violence against women and children continues to be a grave problem in our society. While our constitution is flawless and boasts incredible strides in its attempts to eradicate violence, we still sit with some of the most atrocious statistics. We are told that there are two ways to help solve a problem: prevention and cure. Many of our current interventions adopt a ‘cure’ approach- and thank God for organisations that work tirelessly to care for and minister to victims of violence. But at the same time where do we start when we focus on preventing this violence from occurring?
St Pope John Paul 2 said in his book Love and Responsibility, that in the future, the opposite of love will not be hate, it will be use. We are now living in that future, a society based largely on utilitarian relationships. In our personal opinion, preventing abuse begins with the reclaiming of a fundamental Christian value- respecting the dignity of every human being. This means recognising that every person is made in the image and likeness of God. If we are ever to eliminate the devastating reality of violence against women and children, we have to create a society that sees the other person as a gift and not a thing to be used. Jesus provides the blueprint of how we do this.
Stopping for a haemorrhaging women who grabbed at his cloak (Matt 9:20). He saw her. Having mercy on a widow who would have nothing without her son (Luke 7:11). He saw her. Welcoming the gift and the presence of the woman who others saw as sinful (Luke 7:39). He saw her. No story more striking than his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1). This story presents us with a woman who by society’s standards has lost her worth. She is judged based on the decisions that she has made and she is so affected by this that she avoids people and the gaze of others by going to collect water at a time when nobody is there. Jesus meets her at this well in her solitude, he speaks to her, listens to her and ultimately through seeing her, she sees herself.
How different our country would be if every one of us took up the responsibility of seeing women and children for who they are and what they are worth.
But our duty is not to stop at seeing, but to also speak up in the face of injustice that we see. Too many of us have become okay with taking the passer-by approach to violence against women and children. Of course we hurt when we hear of stories in the news and in life, but we have become accustomed to not speaking out for the voice-less. This is largely influenced by our discouragement and convincing ourselves that one voice cannot make a difference. How can I as one person truly make difference? We find hope alive and well in our society, where people are willing to donate to causes, volunteer at centres, and yes, even start influential hashtag movements online. The truth is these small acts can seem insignificant, but by ensuring that we each use our voice, we will create a change. Jesus demonstrates again and again the importance of speaking up and he tells us “do not be afraid”! So let us speak up when we see injustices against women and children. When we see, let us really see, and speak truth to that moment.
These 16 days go a long way in helping victims of abuse feel seen, that they are not alone and that we as a nation stand together united against violence. Let us follow the example of Jesus and step into the real experiences of so many around us. Let us not allow the distance created by nameless statistics to make us forget that these are our sisters, our friends, and our children. As women in this world, we rejoice in the idea of a world where we are not just looked at, but are seen for everything we are, and all that we offer this world. So let us look and become people who see.
• Nqobile Ngcobo and Samantha Thomas are two young Catholics who are gearing up to discuss these issues, and other socially-relevant topics, at the Mini World Youth Day, a gathering in Durban of young Catholics from throughout Southern Africa taking place at the Durban Exhibition Centre from 6 – 10 Dec 2017