16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM: BOWMANS EMPLOYEES PLEDGE TO PREVENT WOMEN AND CHILD ABUSE
An average of 142.2 sexual offences are recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in South Africa every day. In 2015/16, more than 50 000 sexual offences were recorded by SAPS in one year, a figure that is thought to be much higher in reality as many victims do not report their attackers.
On November 25 2016, South Africa, will, alongside the rest of the world, observe the start of the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to encourage global citizens to be active participants in the quest to end violence against women and children.
To show their support for a society free of all forms of violence, Bowmans employees in various jurisdictions on the continent will take part in the 16 Days Count Me in Campaign. During the campaign, all employees will be invited to pledge to do what they can to prevent violence against women and children. The employees will also wear white ribbons. In addition, the firm will purchase and donate items for comfort packs. This is part of the non-profit organisation WAR’s programme to supply bags containing comforting supplies to rape and abuse victims at trauma centres and police stations in South Africa.
Fatima Laher, the Pro Bono Manager at Bowmans in South Africa explains that the firm has always striven to address this crucial human rights issue and to contribute towards resolving gender-based violence and child abuse.
“The firm has long been a proponent of women’s and children’s rights, and many of its pro bono activities focus on helping victims of abuse. We have partnered with several programmes that aim to help women and children who have either been victims of violence or who might be vulnerable to such abuse later in life. We aim to contribute our specialist legal skills in a way that is meaningful and effective in resolving this issue that affects so many women and children in Africa,” she says.
For example, Laher says that four years ago, the firm identified a need for victims of domestic violence to be assisted in obtaining protection orders.
“Our volunteer attorneys help victims through the domestic violence helpdesk project at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. The success of our Johannesburg project was such that we approached the Women’s Legal Centre with a proposal to initiate a similar project at the Cape Town Magistrates Court. We commenced a pilot project with them two years ago. Since January this year, we have spent 185 hours on the Cape Town help desk and 258 hours on the Randburg helpdesk,” she says.
Lawyers at Bowmans also assist the Women’s Legal Centre to provide legal services to sex workers.
“We hold one-on-one consultations with sex workers at the Centre’s sex worker’s clinic. This is regarding their legal matters, mostly dealing with police violence, domestic and harassment violence and consumer matters. To support the initiative and prior to our participating in the clinics, we held sensitisation and legal training sessions to empower our lawyers to deal with these matters effectively,” she notes.
“We also support Lawyers vs Abuse, a non-profit organisation that provides free legal and psycho-social support to victims of gender-based violence, particularly assisting victims in an informal settlement in Johannesburg. In addition, the firm renders legal representation to vulnerable children in Children’s Court proceedings through PROBONO.ORG’s one child year campaign.
“Each one of us, has an obligation to stand up and be counted when it comes to protecting vulnerable women and children. If we all rise together against this violence, it becomes possible to end it. The 16 Days of Activism campaign is a call to action and one that we will not ignore,” adds Laher.
By Fatima Laher