#NotInMyName march - we need to do much more

#NotInMyName march - we need to do much more

The not in my name march in Pretoria on Saturday left me feeling the same as I did before the march. By the same, I simply mean this - nothing shifted dramatically in my world. 

Gaopalelwe Olivia Phalaetsile

I'm still scared. I still fear for my life as a woman. I have anxieties over a variety of things. And it's all interconnected. Because of who I am and where I live. That makes me just one of many - by no means unique. 

It was a march that carried much expectation, I really don't know what exactly I wanted to happen - safe to say that in the end, what happened wasn't it. The numbers were disappointing. Another disappointment, the number of people in political party regalia pitching up, handing out flyers about their own issues and agendas. With everything that is being politisized in our spaces, can this one thing not just be about the people affected, I wondered? 

Not in my name march PTA 4
Photo: Olivia Phalaetsile

When I reached the steps of Church Square, I heard the organisers of the event talk about rolling mass action. For a brief moment I was hopeful. I thought- this could work. Imagine a march every weekend, highlighting the plight of women and children, led by men, calling on other men to stop the various forms of abuse. Calling on all men to be part of the solution, to understand their own power. But that was the first and the last time in the day that more action was mentioned. 

See, it's important to know what comes next. It's important to not make these events once offs, where we leave, not really getting what exactly happened. Lives are at stake, the body count of women and children - murdered, raped and abused are increasing. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. 

Not in my name march PTA 3
Photo: Olivia Phalaetsile

We walked down the streets of Pretoria singing songs about respecting and loving women - with spectators looking on. Would it have made a difference if the march was held on a different day? Would more people have participated if more people were made aware of it? What was the reason behind so few people taking up the call to say Not In My Name? 

The walk to the union buildings was a brief one. There- a young woman recounted her ordeal in February. Walking to a taxi rank in Soweto, she was grabbed from behind and pulled into a car. She says a man threatened to kill and rape her while driving off with her scared self next to him. After seeing that her door was not locked, she waited for the right moment and jumped out of the moving vehicle. The physical scars she dealt with, the emotional scars will linger on. It took me back to my own encounters of harassment and abuse, and I remember those around me watching on. Such is life for some of us, people stare, are appalled, but who comes to your aid? 

Not in my name march PTA 2
Photo: Olivia Phalaetsile

For me, this is the fundemental change that needs to set in in our society, if we are to have any real chance that things will change for women and children in our country. 

The keynote address at the Union Buildings, was delivered by organiser Siya Jentile. I struggled to understand his reasoning. He denounced the MenAreTrash hashtag, but appealled to men to stop the unspeakable acts against women.  It seemed to me that the message that was being sent, was that men can speak when they have wronged, but when women speak out - they are not ready to hear.  I was encouraged however by his approach to collective responsibility. How he managed to capture the message that all men have a responsibility and a role to play to remedy the wrong that has been done. That is a step in the right direction, but it's still men speaking about us as women, speaking about us as if we can't speak for ourselves. 

I was hungry for more voices of women to be heard, for more to speak out. But I guess that will be another march. 

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