Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network, together with partners the 1.6 Million Club Sweden and Yennenga Progress, hosted a Family Unit Participative Conference in Cape Town from 17 to 19 August 2017 that drew together about 30 entities over three days. The purpose was to co-create a solution to feed into the strategy to be used in ongoing efforts directed at preventing the violation of the rights of women and children.
The initiative aimed to promote the health and safety of women and children, eradicate gender-based violence and strengthen the family unit. It brought together service providers and organisations working in areas with high contact crime rates, government and political entities, participants from communities, and experts, with the objective of creating safer communities and forming a united voice against the violation of the vulnerable.
Holistic, integrated and inclusive
“The problems of violence in our society necessitate the need for a holistic, integrated and inclusive project to highlight the importance of the functional Family Unit,” said Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of the Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network. “The initiative will result in the establishment of a formal programme to achieve the objectives of the participative family conference”, she added.
Strengthening families and combating violence
Albert Fritz, Minister for Social Development in the Western Cape Province, expressed his support for the conference in a message that was screened at the event via video.
In his message, Minister Fritz expressed his support for the family emphasis of the conference and for a holistic approach to the problems being addressed. He acknowledged the need for more to be done to ensure the safety of women and children and to combat violence. “We need to disrupt our own programmes,” Minister Fritz said. Things were not working enough to protect women and children. “(The situation) cannot continue the way it is,” he added.
An added focus of the conference was preparing soon-to-be or new fathers and men in general to understand their roles and take up the responsibility to care for and protect their children and the mothers of their children.
The three-day Family Unit Participative Conference featured discussion around five integrated thematic topic areas: Education/Skills Transfer; Social Justice & Safety; Social Entrepreneurship; Healthy Lifestyle; and Food Security & Nutrition.
Protection of the vulnerable
On 17 August, speakers highlighted current realities. Discussion focused on current efforts and the way forward to ensure safe communities and protection of the vulnerable. On 18 August, capacity-building sessions were facilitated by selected non-governmental organisations. Round Table Collaborative Strategy discussions among stakeholders within the different thematic sectors aimed to come up with a draft action plan for a collaborative effort to address the challenges. The final day, 19 August, included an inter-faith prayer circle.
Various organisations participating in the conference included non-governmental organisations working within the sectors of social justice, prevention and reduction of abuse and domestic violence; sexual and reproductive health programmes; services engaging men and boys; those equipping parents of children living with disabilities and persons who are differently abled; as well as organisations focusing on the family unit.
Alexandra Charles, Founder and President of the 1.6 & 2.6 Million Club, addressed the Family Unit Participative Conference on how she built one of Sweden’s largest non-profit women’s organisations. Carin Götblad, Regional Police Commissioner in Police Region Central, Uppsala, Sweden, and for two years a National Co-ordinator Against Domestic Violence, was another speaker.
Preventing abuse of women and children
Claudia Burger, Programme Director at Activists Networking against the Exploitation of Children (Anex), addressed the subject of the influence of abuse on the family unit. Aneleh le Roux, Training Manager at Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA), introduced the global campaign of Thursdays in Black initiated to combat rape and violence.
Another participant in the three-day conference was poet, playwright and performer, Malika Ndlovu.
Researcher for the Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI) at the Institute for Safety Governance in the Global South at the University of Cape Town, Giselle Warton, also addressed the event. Warton is content manager of SaferSpaces, an online knowledge-sharing and networking portal for safety and crime prevention practitioners.
Another expert speaker from Sweden was Dr Veronica Svedhem Johansson, Senior Consultant in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Karolinska University Hospital and Director of the Swedish HIV National Quality Assurance Registry. Mark Kleinschmidt, Anglican Lay Minister and Ward 60 Councillor for the City of Cape Town, served as master of ceremonies on the first and last days.
The 1.6 Million Club Sweden, which raises awareness around women’s health and lifestyle issues and lobbies for fair, gender-based, medical research, funded the initiative together with Yennenga Progress, an organisation serving as an accelerator for development.