December 13, 2023

By: Kate Lovas, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Co-Chair

South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence (GBV), with women being killed by their partners at a rate five times higher than the global average. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 16 Days of Activism against GBV campaign, it is important to spotlight activists like Ncazelo Ncube, founder of PHOLA, who utilizes innovative approaches to address and reduce GBV. 
Through her work, Ncazelo helps GBV survivors become agents of social change in their personal lives, families, and communities. During a discussion hosted by the World Bank Group Women for Development Alliance, Ncazelo shared how she is familiar with the disadvantages women generally experience and has found inspiration. While working for the Nelson Mandela Children Fund, she grew a stronger desire to change the lives of those disadvantaged, especially women and children. Ncazelo has admired the courage displayed by women who face many hardships but continue to get up each day and show up for their families and communities. She draws inspiration from images of women walking long distances with buckets on their heads, adding that she feels like she is carrying one in many ways.
Miguel San Joaquin, founder and film director of POLO, captured Ncazelo’s inspiring work through the Caravan of Joy and Tears. POLO is a global nonprofit film production platform dedicated to amplifying transformative stories about inspiring women, emphasizing social impact, and prioritizing low and middle-income nations. When asked why he filmed Ncazelo’s story, Miguel explained how she uses African-tailored solutions to address African problems. Understanding the root causes of GBV and pursuing local solutions rather than just trying to fit solutions drawn from other parts of the world is essential. Miguel described how he could not stop thinking about how someone could grow from a child to someone later in life who would beat a woman. With the topic of GBV being tremendous in South Africa and the question weighing on his mind, Miguel chose to highlight this story.
It is important to consider GBV in the context of the UDHR, a document that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. As stated in Article 3, everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of persons. Victims of GBV are denied this essential right and are often robbed of feeling safe in their own homes. GBV can affect every aspect of a woman's life, from their physical and mental health to their community involvement. It is also essential to remember GBV risks in humanitarian responses to growing conflict seen around the world, as women can be at greater risk in crisis scenarios. Article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This, too, can apply to GBV since women should not be subjected to this inhumane treatment that can have both short and long-term effects. The 75th anniversary of the UDHR, accompanied by Miguel’s documentary, provides an opportunity to remind the world that women have the right to feel secure in their everyday lives.

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