The year was 2006. HIV-activist Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, known to the public only as Khwezi, faced off against Jacob Zuma, then the deputy-president of South Africa, in court. She had accused him of rape. She stood her ground amidst death threats from Zuma’s supporters, harassment from the ANC Women’s League and widespread torment from the ruling party. She was not alone in her stand. The 1-in-9 Campaign was born during this particularly turbulent, triggering time in South Africa. Zuma, who would go on to become President of South Africa, was acquitted on the charges against him. The organisation, however, continued to support survivors of sexual violence in navigating the social landscape and the criminal justice system. According to popularly cited statistics, one in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. According to the South African Medical Research Council, only one in nine rapes are reported to authorities. It was, initially, the latter group that the organisation supported.
Mpumi Mathabela is the 1-in-9 Campaign coordinator. She says despite the impact they were making through their work within the criminal justice system, there came a day when they realised that that was not enough. “Our name is a statistic from that time period – the time of Zuma and Khwezi – and it was a work that was incredibly impactful. We got to a point where when people did not see us outside court they would call and ask where we were.” More needed to be done.
“Only one in nine women report their rape to the police. So one woman reports. One woman we go to court with. One woman we push for the justice system to do its job. One woman. Just one in nine.”
Sheshakes her head. “But what about the other eight…” The question hangs in the air as the magnitude of the statement sinks in.
“What happens to the other eight? Are they silent?”
The answer, she says, is of course not. “They are simply speaking out in their own ways. We have progressed from working with that one in the criminal justice system to branching out to the other eight too. This is our shift. We are reintroducing and redefining feminist movement building, but we are not just focusing on the one woman who makes it to court anymore.”
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