Faith Mission

Faith Leaders Pledge to Combat Gender Violence and Femicide in a New Initiative

As South Africa commemorates 25 years since initiating the 16 Days of Activism for No
Violence against Women and Children campaign, a renewed approach to the scourge
critical, reports Bhekisisa Mncube.

In a landmark move, the Faith Action to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Collective, an
interfaith coalition committed to eradicating GBV and femicide has unveiled their Joint
Statement of Commitment and Signature Campaign. This ground-breaking initiative
represents a collective pledge to actively engage in collaborative efforts aimed at eradicating
GBV and achieving the goals set forth in the National Strategic Plan to End GBV and

The collective’s unity prayer, led by Dr Fikile Vilakazi, Director of the Gender Equity Unit at
the University of the Western Cape and Founder of the Ikhwelo Healers Collective,
encapsulated the collective desire for change and healing. Her powerful words echoed
throughout the venue, calling for divine support in uniting hearts and spirits against gender-
based violence.

Dr Vilakazi’s message was clear: “We are wounded people; we need a revolution of love; let’s
be the voice of that revolution.” This declaration captured the essence of the collective’s
mission. She highlighted the urgent need to address spiritual violence within the faith sector.
specifically the abuse perpetrated by trainers (oGobela) against initiates, including instances
where initiates have been raped in the name of their ancestors. Emphasising a vision for the
future, she declared the possibility of a world free from gender-based violence and femicide
(GBVF), underscoring the collective’s commitment to making this vision a reality.

The Interfaith Movement for Sustained ACTION to END Gender-Based Violence and
Femicide, held at the Emseni Centre in Benoni last month served as a day of commitment and
a platform for shared learning and mutual support. The event brought together faith
representatives from Islam, Hinduism, Baha’i, African Traditional Religion, Reformed
Judaism, Buddhism, Brahma Kumaris, and Christianity, marking a significant step in the
fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Ms. Daniela Gennrich, Coordinator of We Will Speak Out South Africa (WWSOSA) and
Secretariat to the Faith Action to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Collective, spoke of a
new beginning. Highlighting the severity of the situation in South Africa, she stated, ‘The
prevalence statistics of gender-based violence and femicide show that we are a country at war
with ourselves.’

Gennrich emphasised, “This campaign isn’t just another fleeting trend; it’s about igniting a
passion for real change.” She highlighted the stark reality of gender-based violence in South
Africa, noting,

“We are a country at war with ourselves. Gender violence isn’t an external
issue; our members are both survivors and perpetrators.” She called on the faith community to respond, “We must listen to the cries of survivors and learn together, fostering a
community that heals, grows, and embodies our faith and love.”

Dr Nontando Hadebe, an African Feminist Theologian and the International Coordinator for
Side by Side, evoked a ‘Kairos Moment’ signifying ‘the right, critical, or opportune moment’
at the interfaith event, referencing the significant 1985 Kairos Document. This document,
crafted by black South African theologians from Soweto, was a pivotal theological response
to the apartheid regime. It embodied contextual and liberation theology, resonating globally
in Latin America, Europe, Zimbabwe, India, and Palestine.

Dr Hadebe emphasised the urgent need for action, drawing parallels with the Sankofa bird to
symbolise the retrieval of unity from the faith action against apartheid. She highlighted, “It is
time to transform, dismantle and replace,” acknowledging the ongoing journey towards
gender justice. Her appeal for inclusivity extended to inviting men, who are not all
perpetrators, and including the LGBTQ+ and disability sectors, reinforcing the commitment
to a diverse and inclusive approach.

Prof. Fatima Seedat, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of African Feminist
Studies at the University of Cape Town and Co-Director of the Centre for Contemporary
Islam has emphasised the critical importance of addressing gender-based violence (GBV)
with utmost seriousness in society. She highlighted that effectively tackling GBV is
unattainable if those working in the field, whether in the faith sector or more broadly, are
required to do so voluntarily. Prof. Seedat advocates for sustained action to eradicate GBV,
stressing the necessity of dedicating “time and energy” to this crucial issue.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches and
The retired bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church equated the battle against gender violence
to running a marathon, emphasising the need for reinterpretation of sacred texts. He stressed
that winning this battle requires the right ‘gear’, comparing proper running shoes to creating a
conducive environment for activism and a hydration pack to maintain perseverance.
His critique of patriarchy highlighted its role in hindering humanity’s full potential, as it
subjugates women. Drawing inspiration from interfaith leaders who stood against apartheid,

Bishop Mpumlwana called for a united front in this enduring struggle, symbolised by
essentials like the right shoes, hydration, and first aid, akin to Thuthuzela Care Centres.
Meanwhile, Mr Mlingane Poswayo, Director of the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs,
emphasised the genderless nature of our souls, underscoring the importance of united action in
faith. He stated, “Faith without action is meaningless,” highlighting the necessity for a unified
voice within the faith community.

Poswayo praised the unveiling of the Joint Statement of
Commitment and Signature Campaign, terming it a “success in itself.” He also called for
humility, criticising the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude prevalent in some faith circles as

This event marks a pivotal moment in the history of faith-based activism against gender-
based violence in South Africa. The collective’s commitment to combating GBVF transcends religious boundaries, underscoring the power of unity in addressing societal challenges.

The Faith Action to End GBV Collective remains dedicated to this cause, advocating for change
and healing across all communities.

Please sign the petition and make your voice heard.


Bhekisisa Mncube, an author of three acclaimed books, award-winning columnist and a rape
survivor turned activist against gender-based violence is also a volunteer at Faith Action to
End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Collective.