Fighting Gender-based Violence Through Survivor Support

By Jessie Taylor

Khethiwe Sibanyoni spent her lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic assisting the victims of gender-based violence by providing them with a small token of comfort. Today, she has launched a foundation that works to combat gender-based violence and provide support to victims of it.

Giving comfort to gender-based violence survivors

Khethiwe started by putting together comfort bags to offer hope to survivors of gender-based violence. Today, she has developed Khethi’s Foundation which works to reduce femicide and gender-based violence through collaboration, raising awareness, and supporting and empowering survivors. She assists women who are in danger or are experiencing gender-based violence to connect with shelters and the police to allow them to access safety and social services, saying her work is “moving a victim from a place of pain to a home of healing”.



The foundation focusses on detection, prevention, and correction, and is developing an Educare programme that will empower survivors with knowledge, practical skills, and training for economic independence. “After thorough research, we realised that gender-based violence numbers are fuelled by high dependency on male counterparts, especially for financial security. This programme, therefore, aims to provide these survivors with knowledge, practical skills and training so they have realistic income generating options”. This will allow more women to become economically independent and reduce their vulnerability to gender-based violence. Research showed that during the lockdown, calls for help from women experiencing gender-based violence increased dramatically. At the time, the government gender-based violence and femicide command centre alone recorded more than 120 000 victims in the first three weeks of lockdown.

She started the Comfort Bag Movement to provide survivors with essential items and a sense of dignity when they arrived at shelters. “Many times these survivors would arrive with minimal or no items at all. The bags are meant to offer feelings of support and dignity and further grant economic relief to these gender-based violence shelters and victims,” – Khetihwe. The bags contain among other things, a face cloth, soap, body lotion, hairbrush, sanitary towels, toothbrush, underwear, a notebook and a pen and each one costs around R300 to make. Initially Khethiwe used her social media accounts to make a call for donations, as well as receiving sponsorship from family and friends, but soon the project was supported by the Epic Foundation. which helped her identify areas where there was a great need for comfort bags.

Fighting the ‘second pandemic’

At the time, President Ramaphosa dubbed gender-based violence as the “second pandemic” South Africa was facing. To address the scourge of gender-based violence, he established the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide on 30 April 2020. The Plan shows a high-level political commitment to acting decisively against gender-based violence and feeds into President Ramaphosa’s Emergency Response Action Plan developed in partnership with civil society, activists, and researchers. The National Strategic Plan, which had around R21billion allocated towards it, aims to eradicate gender-based violence by 2030. The 23 year old activist from Germiston said she said she expanded her work of providing comfort to women who had experienced gender-based violence after she realised there was a need for a more systematic approach to address the growing issue.


Gender-based violence in South Africa

The World Health Organisation estimates that 12.1 in every 100 000 women are victims of femicide in South Africa each year. This number is five times the global average.

South African women are vulnerable to high levels of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. This is evidenced in statistics that between 25% and 40% of South African women have experienced sexual or physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

The most recent quarterly crime statistics revealed that in the first three months of 2023, 1 0512 women were raped, 1 485 attempted murders of women were reported, and 969 women were killed.

Source: The Citizen | Wits Vuvuzela | Briefly | LinkedIn | SAPS | World Health Organisation