On 1 August 2018 South African women marched to the Union Buildings under the banner of the #TotalShutdown movement to submit 24 demands to have the government acknowledge and address gender-based violence and femicide as national crises. President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted the 24 demands document and subsequently called for the GBV and Femicide summit to take place on 1-2 November 2018. This kickstarted a collaborative preparatory process that involved relevant government departments, civil society organisations, intergovernmental organisations, development partners and research institutions including the Gender and Health Research Unit of the SAMRC (GHRU).
The GHRU was invited to initial meetings to develop the agenda and priorities of the summit, became part of the Prevention pillar task team and much of the GHRU’s work contributed to the base document on GBV prevention. Prof Naeemah Abrahams also led the deliberations on Prevention at the Summit. A Declaration against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide was issued after the Summit, in which President Ramaphosa also committed the country to the development of a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and the establishment of a Gender Based Violence and Femicide Council.
The interim steering committee (ISC) was set up to coordinate the preliminary work to achieve the Declaration commitments prior to the establishment of the council. The ISC was hosted from the Office of President from January 2019 to April 2020, with two co-chairs, the Social Policy Advisor in the Presidency, Prof Olive Shisana, and the #TotalShutdown representative, Adv Brenda Madumise-Pajibo.
Membership was made up of government departments and civil society organisations, and a technical advisory team that included the GHRU represented by Dr Nwabisa Shai. The GHRU has made an indelible mark in the process of developing the NSP, promoting the use of science to inform the country’s understanding of the extent of and drivers of GBV and femicide, and the evidence-based solutions needed for effective prevention and response programmes and services. As a member of the Technical Advisory Team for the NSP, a few staff members of the GHRU, namely Prof Rachel Jewkes, Prof Abrahams, Dr Nwabisa Shai and Dr Bianca Dekel helped in different aspects of the NSP particularly the theory of change and co-drafting sections of the NSP. Prof Jewkes was also invited by the ISC to develop a R1.2 billion budget of the President’s emergency response action plan announced in Parliament in September 2019. 30 April 2020 marked the launch of South Africa’s first-ever National Strategic Plan to address and respond to GBV and femicide.