We must lead by example to create a future in which all are equal – and safe

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Equality in the workplace, home and society is critical

24 November 2022 – The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs through International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

The South African Government’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism Campaign for 2022 is: “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!”

The United Nations calls Gender-Based Violence “The Shadow Pandemic” and is working hard to eradicate it by 2030 and has consistently called upon the world to take steps to rid the world of the growing global, silent crisis.

Statistics show that 1 in 3 women worldwide experience some form of physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. In South Africa, and Africa as a whole, this is exacerbated further by a deteriorating human rights emergency spanning violence, poverty and disease

Gender-based violence is a big stain on our society. We cannot escape the fact that we are a broken nation.

In the fight against abuse, it is important to recognise that it cannot be left to the authorities alone, as it is often too late when the law gets involved. We all need to work hard to contribute to ending this pandemic.

We know through our own experience as Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) that gender representation and inclusivity has been one of the critical building blocks of our continued success as an organisation. This has been shown to be the case around the world when it comes to running sustainable businesses and developing societies that encourage girls and women empowerment.

This transformative force needs to be replicated across all sectors of our society to underline and showcase the true value of women as contributors, builders, protectors, leaders and pioneers.

In 2018 we launched our Women@CCBSA programme as a network for women within our organisation to connect with each other and access resources, tools, case studies and practical guides for their careers and also to ensure a meaningful work-life balance.

The initiative developed further to include training 40 women as “Lean In” leaders, able to facilitate and run regular Lean In circles where women gather to discuss and unpack a specific topic which matters to them. These ranged from being a working mother to confronting distressing issues such as abuse.

It pains me deeply that we must have a period set aside to focus attention on the scourge that is gender-based violence and the tremendous suffering us men cause our girl children and women, and in some cases even to our young boys.

Our bodies go numb, and our hearts are filled with sorrow and grief when we read of the lives of women – from young girls to our elderly women folk – taken or their emotional wellbeing destroyed due to constant emotional and financial abuse by men who believe they have ownership over women. What we cannot afford, is the numbness to give way to accepting gender-based violence as the norm.

And while we trust that the criminal justice system must work to bring those who have committed wrongs to justice, we also need to work at holistically transforming our society for the better – one in which girls and women are valued and respected.

This involves instilling deep values of respect and decency within our homes, our education institutions, our communities, places of worship, the workplace and in our social circles.

Over and above ensuring our female colleagues are empowered, promoted, supported and feel safe in our workplace, in 2019 we started a movement – Men of Honour – a call-to-action for men at CCBSA to really start looking within themselves, recognise their emotional fragility, and how they define and view masculinity, gender roles and gender-based violence.

Men of Honour is also a space where they can start taking their mental and physical wellbeing seriously, without any judgment. The sessions are invaluable and continue to offer opportunities for men to reflect on themselves and each other in a deep, meaningful way that leaves a lasting impact.

We need to be brave and call out misogyny when we see or hear it around us, the catcalling at public transport interchanges, how men speak among themselves about women. Let us educate and begin to heal our brokenness.

  • No child is born a racist
  • No child is born a monster
  • No boy child is born an abuser

As men, we must accept responsibility for how we raise our children – especially our boys – and the example we set for them.

It is only when we see the true value of women in every aspect of our society that young girls and boys will begin to fully understand, appreciate, and most importantly, respect the role and importance of women.

Our girl and boy children need to grow up, see and understand what is possible and that gender – just as with race or any other classification – does not define who they are and what they can achieve.

If we are to create a better, more equal, prosperous and safer world for women, these are the learnings and values which we have to inculcate from a young age.

We must learn to connect and collaborate and build social contracts which strengthen the fabric of our society and create a place where women are safe, secure and fully recognised.

So, together, we need to educate, nurture, heal and build the future in which we are not only equal, and we can share in a prosperous future for all, but a future where women feel safe. We owe it to our children, girls and boys.

ENDS

About CCBSA

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) is a proudly South African company which began operating as a legal entity in July 2016, after the merger of six non-alcoholic ready to drink bottling operations. We employ over 7500 people at 13 manufacturing facilities across the country. As a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) and a bottler for The Coca-Cola Company, our vision is to refresh Africa every day and make our continent a better place for all. We manufacture and distribute Coca-Cola beverages that make life’s everyday moments more enjoyable, while doing business the right way. The result is shared opportunity for our customers, our employees, our communities, and our shareholders. We conduct our business ethically, transparently and conscientiously. We espouse an inclusive business culture to reflect our African identity. We accelerate sustainable, profitable revenue growth across all categories and offer an innovative portfolio of products that respond to customer needs and consumer preferences. Profitability is important, but not at any cost. People matter. Our planet matters. We do business the right way by following our values and partnering for solutions that benefit us all.

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