By: Alexander MacDonald
A global movement against sexual abuse and gender-based violence, which spearheaded a campaign that challenges abuse against women and children all around the world.
During November 2018, Badisa introduced Thursdays in Black to their employees.The initiative is not new, having kick started in the 1970s when Argentinian women wore black sashes in protest of the rape, abuse, and disappearance of loved ones in their homeland. On Thursdays- they would protest in silence with the aim to create awareness and alert the government to what was happening to their friends and family. To this day- the movement has spiked a global interest in combatting abuse, encouraging men, women and children to wear black clothing on Thursdays.
The primary focus of the campaign is to challenge situations causing violence and rape. Individuals can become part of a global movement that empowers victims and gives voice to the voiceless. The silent, yet impactful protest- represents the pain, anger, and despair felt by victims and loved ones, and transforms their experiences into political action.
Lauren Lesch, a social worker at Badisa Peninsula Social Services and driver of this campaign in the Elsies River community, shared her thoughts on its progress and the effect abuse and violence has had on their community. Lesch stated that sexual and physical abuse has the highest prevalence, but remains vastly under reported. “Even though this topic requires continuous discourse it tends to remain an evil we do not confront in our homes, where most forms of abuse occur. We aim to create awareness on various platforms, but it is in our homes where I feel the greatest potential for awareness lies”, she says. During the financial years of 2017 and 2018, Badisa Peninsula Social Services in Elsies River received 170 reported cases on child negligence, sexual and physical abuse. These only include reported cases.
Lesch expressed her sense that people tend to look for grand and boisterous gestures to demonstrate their intent, but that with this campaign the symbolism can be striking in its silent but impactful protest. “One can never take away the hurt and pain a victim of abuse endured and we should aim to never belittle anyone’s experience thereof. What we can do is create awareness, have open discourse and show our solidarity and support through this initiative.”
The Thursdays in Black campaign has elevated Badisa to a level where various programmes unite and support the initiative. The movement allows Badisa to make an impact and mobilise an effective revolution that spreads awareness with every passing week. Lesch stated that every Thursday she spots people dressed in black and wearing the pin, expressing a common goal among colleagues. People are putting aside their cultural, racial, ethnic and religious differences by coming together in support of the campaign in full force.
Wearing black every Thursday is how Lesch and her colleagues actively promote the campaign. For them, it is not only the dress code that creates awareness, but also the common belief in the purpose they share with others every Thursday. Since promoting this movement is a key priority Lesch and her colleagues creates a buzz on a weekly basis. They take pictures every week and are careful to make an impact by being clear and concise on social networks.
What started as a mere act of defiance for women in Argentina has progressed and evolved into a global initiative that gave strength and courage to communities across the world. Men, women and children are rising up and saying no to violence and abuse. Volunteers, like Lesch and her colleagues, have connected themselves to the global movement by doing their part in their community. She has proven that awareness takes on a life of its own and can become a force to be reckoned with. This is not just a movement, but a source of hope for ‘a world without rape and violence’. Lesch quoted Mother Theresa when asked if she thinks Thursdays in Black makes a difference. “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
Victims of abuse are encouraged to seek help by contacting the organisations below:
People Opposed to Woman Abuse, or Powa –011 642 434/6
Stop Gender Violence –Toll-free helpline: 0800 150 150
ChildLine South Africa –Toll-free helpline: 0800 055 555