WDD started as a result of a brutal attack on Alison Saayman who was nearly killed in her home in Observatory, Cape Town; it was also the year that 19-year old Valencia Farmer was gang raped and left for dead, living long enough to name her murderers.
At the time Nomfundo Walaza was Director of the Trauma Centre for the Survivors of Violence and Torture, and visited the Institute for Healing of Memories where Alison worked and which had been part of the Trauma Centre. Naturally, as they had been colleagues previously, they discussed the attack with vigour. As it happened, Nomfundo was also writing material for Fair Lady magazine and this topic had been the subject of discussion between her and Jane Raphaely. After the visit with Alison, Nomfundo spoke with Jane. The three women met the next day or so, and within a week WDD had been formed with the initial support of about six or seven NGO’s.
The name Women Demand Dignity resulted from a brainstorming weekend round a kitchen table in a Betty’s Bay house by Alison and three of her friends. Initially the plan was to motivate women in South Africa to down tools for one day, but unfortunately this ultimately dribbled down to one hour in the end because of time pressures to produce a campaign by 25 November (International Day for no Violence Against Women and children).
After about six months of doing the administrative work for WDD, Alison left the group but by this time a strong Committee was functioning and the work was taken by others.
She returned to her maiden name, Mather, and took on the name Shanti given to her by her teacher. Shanti means peace, and she felt that she had earned the right to use it at last and to celebrate surviving the attack on her life.
In November 2004 WDD was joined by a collaborative partner, the Men’s Development Coalition of the Western Cape and were supported by the following organisations:
•Office of the Status of Women
•Commission on Gender Equality
•South Africa Media and Gender Association
•City of Cape Town
•Department of Health
•Department of Social Services
•Men as Partners
•The WHEAT Trust
•Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women
•Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
•Union of Jewish Women
Right now South Africa is the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman or a child. We have the highest incidence in the world of rape and violent assault, wife murder and battery, child and infant rape and murder, sexual abuse of children in schools and other institutions, and sexual abuse of minors in prison and other places of safety. There is no doubt that South Africa’s tragically high rate of HIV infection is the direct result of the lack of control which women here have over their bodies and sex lives.
WDD acknowledges the changes which have taken place among some South African men during the last 12 years of our existence and applauds this. We congratulate the Government on its good intentions in the form of legislation and our Constitution. We presented the annual WDD White Ribbon Awards to highlight the efforts made by individuals and NGO’s to alleviate the situation but we still call for effective delivery of sexual safety, security and justice for every citizen.
We call upon every woman and man in South Africa to accept responsibility for the sexual dignity and safety of every woman, child and man in this country. A society in which 1 in 6 women can expect to be raped in their lifetime is not a safe society for anyone.