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A Young Woman in South Africa Dies After Being Victim of Gender Based Violence at Her School

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In a university in South Africa, one of the young women there dies, as a result of gender based violence.
Source: Anna Leikvold

Last fall Uyinene Mrwetyana, a Film and Media student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa was brutally raped and killed in a post office in the middle of the day. 

This tragedy shook the UCT campus deeply and became the tipping point for student activists and regular citizens alike to demand institutional and political change concerning gender-based violence. 

The event is not an isolated one, women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence in South Africa. 

According to the World Health Organisation, the age-standardized interpersonal violence death rate for women in South Africa is 12.5 per 100,000.  

One woman is estimated to be murdered every 3 hours in the country. 

According to Nomalanda Vilakazi, a third-year UCT student and activist who is making a documentary about gender-based violence in South Africa, gender-based violence has been prevalent for many years. 

“This situation is really fu** up in the way that we had to get to this point in order to talk about it. We had to get the heights of death in order to take it seriously when it has been happening for a long time,” Vilakazi said. 

Nationwide, people are demanding more protection, harsher sentences and better access to resources for victims of gender-based violence.

The women of South Africa are tired of being afraid, and rather than internalize the horrendous tragedies in a way that would feed that fear, they hope to fight for a better future for their generation and for their children’s generation. 

Last September, UCT shut down all classes for a few days in order to allow for campus-wide mourning and protest. Protesters took to the streets and marched to parliament, demanding their voices be heard.

These protests were interrupted by Uyinene Mrwetyana’s memorial service, a heartbreaking but inspiring event that drew in hundreds of solitary souls. 

Among the speakers was chancellor Graça Machel, the wife of late Nelson Mandela. Machel inspired listeners with words of hope and resistance.

The subsequent protests in the city center drew thousands of people and became violent when police used tear gas and shot rubber bullets at protesters who broke through police barricades. 

Students are very concerned by the lack of action taken by UCT to keep students safe and the greater South African government’s inadequacy in handling the crisis of gender-based violence.

“It’s frustrating when you put people who represent you in position and then they don’t act accordingly. They don’t use their power for what they are supposed to be doing,” Vilakazi said. 

The protests are continuing in the following weeks, as people boycott classes and continue to take to the streets, reflecting the powerful protest culture characteristic of UCT and the nation as a whole. 

Students and citizens have worked together to create a list of alleged rapists and abusers and, as a large group, have found these people and forced them to turn themselves in at local police stations. 

The president has been moved to declare the issue of gender-based violence in a state of emergency in South Africa.

UCT has also taken steps to address the safety concerns of students by adding security and support for students affected by gender-based violence.

 “In a parallel universe, at the vigil last night Uyinene was there, she was there standing, grieving another girl. It could have been anyone” Vilakazi said. 

The campus continues to mourn the loss of a life lost too soon. And to fight for justice for her and the countless other victims across the nation. 

Being that this is a global issue, it remains very important that people become aware of this movement and draw inspiration from it. The world should know her name and her story, and the overdo movement that is rising from her ashes. 

She is one of many victims of gender-based violence across the world, and people in South Africa have made the brave step of saying that enough is enough.