Lest we forget, gender-based violence (GBV) is a widespread problem in South Africa. This women’s month, various organisations have come together to take a stand against the violence through an advocacy campaign.
The campaign underpins the memory of Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was vocal about the various social ills such as patriarchal oppression in society.
She was a UCT student when her life was unexpectedly cut short in August 2019 by the sort of patriarchal oppression she was against.
Her passing caused an uproar which reverberated around the country and even internationally, alerting President Cyril Ramaphosa to the urgency with which the violence against women should be met from a parliamentary perspective.
That is why the government has partnered with Multichoice, People Opposing Woman Abuse (POWA), the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation and Bomb Commercials to speak out against GBV.
The campaign straddles the themes of social justice, compassion and honesty; some of the values of the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation which was founded in commemoration of its namesake.
It gives one hope that it is possible to rid our society of the violence by confronting GBV head-on and reflecting how proximate it is to us all.
The production house, Bomb Commercials was tasked with translating the message into thought-provoking visuals by creating “a piece that would not only get us talking, but also get us thinking,” says director Stephina Zwane, who wrote and directed the commercial.
The company got the picture and drove the message home by delicately placing the idea of an ideal domestic situation side-by-side the extremes of violence without making the commercial too graphic.
“In portraying a normal life, I wanted to juxtapose with a life of brokenness that is so often present in homes, but we don’t always speak about.”
The seriousness of GBV was personalised by setting the scene in a house – an environment we can all relate to.
“It shows us what happens behind closed doors of some households. It shows the aftermath of the violence against women in a setting we all know.”
Having written a poem after Uyinene’s tragic passing in 2019, Zwane was presented the opportunity to further detail her message through film.
“I had to challenge myself in how best to do this in the most impactful way. I knew I didn’t want to put the majority of the work in using women to raise awareness on their own struggle. I needed… men to also take responsibility and acknowledge their role in the fight against GBV.”
The commercial was shot during lockdown in Zwane’s first time on set during the pandemic and says; “it was a bit scary at first being around everyone and having to follow strict social distancing rules. But once all of us got the hang of it, it was smooth sailing.”
Zwane notes the aim of the commercial was not necessarily to stand out from the crowd of the other gender-based violence commercials but simply continuing to raise awareness through adding to the discussion.
“We are all different and we are moved to action by different pieces of art,” she says.
Zwane says she will know the campaign is a success when gender-based violence is completely eradicated in our communities and is encouraged by the increasing discussions being had by men on the issue.
“What is encouraging is that through social media, I have had some guys reach out after seeing the commercial, to add their support to the cause and share their thoughts about what it was like having to see an image that represents them as a perpetrator,” she says.
The campaign acknowledges the pertinence of the GBV discussion and recognises the vision of completely ridding our society of GBV requires a long-term systematic approach.
The commercial is nonetheless progress toward that shared vison.
This vision is shared by Multichoice Group CEO, Calvo Mawela, who sees the campaign as an opportunity “to educate and mobilise citizens in order to eradicate acts of violence against women and children.”
The campaign is certainly worthy of Uyinene Mrwetyana’s memory according to the Foundation, which was founded for advocacy initiatives such as this one.
“We are driven to honour the name of Uyinene and keep her spirit alive by ensuring that no woman or child ever suffers the fate that she did,” says Foundation Managing Director, Masimbulele Buso.
POWA is also pleased with the campaign and the reach it can garner through collaborating with its partners.
“We welcome the opportunity to reach millions of households across the country with a message that should be so obvious that we should not have to utter it: any form of violence is wrong – but violence against women and children must end immediately,” says Mary Makgaba, Chief Executive Officer of POWA.