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Silent protest catches fire

Date Released: Wed, 30 October 2013 08:59 +0200

The Rhodes University Silent Protest protest which happens annually sees thousands of students pledging solidarity towards fighting the on-going struggle against the silence around sexual abuse. Issues confronting rape and violence against women fuelled the commitment of this year’s participants and rape survivors to break the cycle of gender violence yet again.

Protesters were challenged throughout the day to think about why and what their purpose as protesters was.

“Hold on to them [your thoughts] throughout the day as you will be surprised how difficult this protest can be,” said even founder and organiser, Larissa Klazinga.

The protest, which was the number one trending topic on Twitter in SA at the time, and having aired on national news, certainly did leave its mark in the thoughts of a nation. However, has it really enabled on-going participation from the community of participants beyond the event itself?

Faith Du Plessis, a participant of this year’s silencing explains, “It was more than just a day to slap on a purple t-shirt and join a parade. There was something memorable about doing something so unifying.”

The numbers have grown, since its inception in 2006, from a mere 80 to over 1500 registered participants. The Silent Protest media liaison, Michelle Solomon has been the driving force behind building the “silent” community beyond the event itself. Through use of social media networks like Silent Protest’s page on twitter, the “Sexual Violence = Silence” Facebook group and even hosting a blog, RU Silent, participants and survivors are able to engage with one another on a greater networked platform, and thus have been successful in expanding and promoting the cause to a greater South African community.

“It was sad seeing someone you know stand up as a rape survivor. You want to be able to talk to them, but within a less face-threatening context.” said Meg Wilkens, a participant in the protest. “Being able to communicate with others within a different environment helps to build that sense of community,” she said.

Gender equality teach-ins hosted by Rhodes University politics department during this semester, made it clear that the crisis of rape and sexual abuse is far more than a mere silent concern.

To further promote community awareness of Rape and gender violence, students were invited to attend a number of lectures, which subsequently hosted various guest speakers addressing social matters such as patriarchy, the history of rape, corrective rape and gender issues.

Nowakhe Sulelo, a politics major said, “It was really interesting to see the issue of rape being addressed from some of the male speaker’s perspectives.” she said,

“It’s not often that one gets to hear men expose their feelings concerning rape and gender violence.”

This year also marked the first year that universities and university affiliated organisations across the country, including WITS and The University of Limpopo united with Rhodes in community of a cause worth roaring about.

By: Danielle O'Neill

Article Source: Grocotts


Source:Grocotts Mail