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Johannesburg, 26 April 2016 The recent anti-rape protests at Rhodes University by students and staff members highlight an important and disturbing issue in South African society, where it is estimated that one in five women are victims of rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV) each year.

Not only have the protests brought to the fore the scourge that is rape and GBV, they have also  sparked a call for a fundamental shift in our collective consciousness regarding the manner in which rape and GBV are dealt with, as well as how the unequal power relationships between genders should be addressed.

In the spirit of joining this call and strengthening its voice, youth leadership development organisation loveLife extends its support for the protests and its core underlying message – that we as responsible, aware and engaged citizens do not stand for rape and other forms of GBV; that we see it as our duty to protect and uphold the rights of those who have been marginalised and made vulnerable in a society that has for far too long been complicit in reinforcing unequal gender power relationships.Recently, loveLife and its partners in the sphere of GBV prevention launched a programme aimed at modifying social norms that make the prevalence and effects of violence against women and children expected and acceptable. In driving the prevention programme, loveLife and its partners carried out an array of initiatives in specific districts within the Eastern Cape and Free State, provinces where there is a high prevalence of GBV.

These initiatives included: national and community radio programmes; an engaging citizen journalism programme through loveLife’s Media Ys programme; intergenerational community based dialogues and the commissioning of a community-mapping exercise in Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo district municipality and Free State’s Thabo Mofutsanyana district municipality. The study involved the rapid social mapping of the two districts to identify GBV hot spots for better programme planning and implementation.

In addition, loveLife’s pervasive network of empowered youth volunteers, the groundBREAKERs, continuously facilitate youth outreach campaigns on GBV prevention and gender equality, and support GBV-prevention programmes and messages targeted at young people (aged 10-24) through community and national radio stations, as well as on social media platforms.

We believe it is only through youth empowerment and awareness that the scourge of rape and other forms of GBV will be eradicated from our society. As it is the youth, such as those protesting at Rhodes University, who truly have the power to change attitudes, beliefs and behaviours when it comes to creating a just and equal society.

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