CABSA represented We Will Speak Out SA at the 1st South African Conference on Violence, from the 15th to the 17th August 2016 at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre. In addition to materials from We Will Speak Out SA, materials were shared from two Coalition partners: GEMA and CABSA. The Thursdays in Black Campaign was also highlighted. The conference was exceptionally well-focused on gender based violence. There were between 20 and 25 visitors at the exhibition daily. Participants had an opportunity to visit the exhibition room at tea break and after lunch, so there wasn’t much activity between sessions.
Brochures and pamphlets were shared with the participants. We had participants who completed membership forms to join the coalition; one of them was a representative from the Ethekwini Mayoral office. Participants were very interested in what Faith Based Organisations are busy with in their communities, because some of the organisations present at the conference have started to work with churches and church leaders. Participants were interested to gather information on activities on sexual violence and gender based violence and how to collaborate with faith based organisations. There were lots of questions asked. This was also a good opportunity to interact with other exhibitors and hear what work they are doing. Together with Lifeline, exhibitors agreed to wear black on Wednesday since the following day was “Thursday in Black”. It made it easier to demonstrate or encourage our visitors about Thursday in Black.
Nomsa Papale from Lifeline and I had conversations on how to reach out to faith communities and what types of programs could be proposed to churches. She found this very encouraging because a lot of people have given up on faith communities. She also appreciated hearing other people’s experiences working with faith communities. She was also impressed on hearing and reading about We Will Speak Out. For her it was not just about being there to represent LifeLine but she has a burden for her faith community. It would be a great achievement for her to see faith leaders in her community working together to combat gender based violence.Hearing stories from different people about the work they are doing and the impact it has on their communities and churches was motivating.
A Muslim lady, who is a psychologist by profession, shared the challenges she faced on starting interfaith projects in Paarl focusing on Gender Based Violence. She faced challenges in also trying to show faith leaders how the project could have an impact if they worked together. She realised that this was a process not a quick fix. Having a conversations with Doctors Without Borders was also enlightening. Mpho shared about their work with faith communities, she said “I realised that its not an easy task to get faith leaders to work together, it doesn’t matter where you are from and what education level you have. When you want to work in a community you have to have thick skin”. It is imperative to understand the communities we work in and be inclusive to the faith community. This was a great opportunity for We Will Speak Out SA to become known and recognised.