This year, a seismic shift took place in South Africa. Marches, memorandums and hashtags finally mobilised government to declare violence against women a national crisis. South Africans live in what our President has called “one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman”.  A country where a woman is murdered every three hours and where 52,420 sexual offences were reported in just 365 days.  

“The horrific events that occurred this year were the tipping point for South Africa,” says Casey Rousseau who heads up CSI at the 1st for Women Foundation. “These events also prompted us to re-evaluate how our organisation and Foundation’s approach to fighting women abuse could be even more impactful. The result is a preventative and response programme in schools that will take into account and address the root cause of the epidemic.” 

A 365 Day Education Solution

“Since 2005, the 1st for Women Foundation has contributed over R70 million to various organisations that focus on fighting women abuse. However, sadly, women abuse in South Africa remains an ongoing burgeoning and complex issue. It requires a multifaceted approach to address the underlying attitudes, beliefs, practices and systems that condone, justify or excuse gender inequality and violence,” says Rousseau.   

“The strategy behind the Foundation’s education programme was informed by research which showed that male superiority and a culture of violence – which manifests itself in the form of patriarchy, control, sexual entitlement and unhealthy conflict resolution skills – are determining factors towards women abuse.  This was confirmed through research conducted in six gender-based violence hotspots in South Africa where it was found that patriarchy is the biggest driver of women abuse in South Africa. We also found that a prevention and response approach to addressing women abuse in South Africa is critical. We realised that education would be a fundamental tool in the fight for gender equality and preventing gender-based violence,” explains Rousseau. 

The Foundation’s new school-based learning programme is aimed at children aged three to 18. It will initially be launched at 20 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres and five Primary and High Schools in the Diepsloot community in Gauteng.  The programme also includes a comprehensive community-based support programme for survivors of abuse – from trauma to prosecution – which is implemented by Lawyers Against Abuse in Diepsloot.  Self-defense training and a digital tool will be integrated into the programme at a later stage,” says Rousseau.

Diepsloot was selected as it has some of the highest rates of violence against women in South Africa – more than double those reported in national studies.  How the programme will be rolled out nationally, will be considered following the pilot in Diepsloot. 

The programme includes self-esteem, physical alertness and body consciousness training for girls. The Peace is a Decision programme for boys is focused on training and equipping boys with the necessary social courage to challenge cultural norms that condone violence against women and girls, and how to intervene when girls and women are being abused. Training will also be provided for parents, caregivers, teachers and school leaders.


During the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, 1st for Women Insurance is shining a light on women abuse with their #16DaysOfLight campaign. The campaign entails projecting 15 haunting tributes to victims of brutal murders, rapes and femicides on the actual locations of these crimes. Victims include Zanele Khumalo (raped and strangled in Garsfontein – view tribute here), Nomsa Hilda Mbuyisa (shot in Soweto – view tribute here), Hannah Cornelius (raped and murdered near Stellenbosch), Clarissa Lindoor (murdered in Stellenbosch), Courtney Pieters (raped and murdered, her body found in Epping Industria, Cape Town) and Janika Mello (raped and murdered in Heinz Park, Cape Town), among others. On the 16th Day, 10 December 2019, the full length compilation video of all 15 tributes combined, will be projected onto the side of a well-known landmark in Johannesburg. The tribute will also be broadcast live on social media.

“Through the #16DaysOfLight tribute campaign and the preventative and response education programme, we want to ensure that the women abuse epidemic never fades into the darkness. It will, however, require us all to continue shedding light on these dark matters, and finding pragmatic solutions to address it,” Rousseau concludes. 

For more information about the 1st for Women Foundation and for updates on the #16DaysOfLight campaign, visit: If you are a victim or survivor of gender-based violence or abuse and need support, visit

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