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Rhodes Park in Kensington was the scene of fun-filled activities on Saturday, 5 December as more than 2 000 Joburgers turned out to mark the 10th edition of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

Residents get into the spirit of things
Residents get into the spirit of things during a self-defence demonstration at Rhodes Park.

The event, hosted by the Gauteng Department of Community Safety in partnership with Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, also served to pay tribute to the victims of a brutal double murder and rape that took place in the park in October.

The day started on an active note with a four-kilometre walk and 10-kilometre cycle, followed by dialogues on gender-based violence and culminating in a host of live entertainment activities.

In her keynote address, Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane urged the community to "to reclaim this beautiful park and use it all the time", as well as to take a stand in order to break the cycle of violence against women and children.

"Violence does not hurt only the person who has experienced it," the MEC said. "It hurts the whole community."

City Parks to roll out lighting, explore CCTV options

Zarina Motala, chairperson of the Section 79 Committee for Community Development in the City of Joburg, said City Parks would be rolling out additional lighting in 80 parks across the city, and was also exploring the use of CCTV to monitor illegal activity and bylaw transgressions in parks.

Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane
'Violence does not hurt only the person who has experienced it' - Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.

"These tamper-proof structures are costly, and we appeal to businesses in the surrounding areas to contribute to making safe parks and public spaces a reality."

Motala said a just society could only be realised if people worked together as a cohesive team that was driven by the common purpose of respecting and protecting children and women.

She commended security companies Stallion, CSS, Cap, Beagle Watch, 7 Arrows and ADT, whose staff were present at Saturday's event.

"These are the companies that have said to the City, 'we will patrol your parks at no cost to act as a deterrent to crime spreading in our neighbourhoods'. This is the [kind of] collective action that we need to build health, safe and liveable cities."

'Don't be afraid to call for help'

As part of the dialogues, fitness instructor Ronald Abvajee gave the crowd tips on self-defence, while noting that "the most important weapon in protecting yourself is awareness".

16 Days of Activism is an international initiative held every year between 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

The City has urged residents to make use of strong policy and legislative provisions to report gender-based violence. The City's "Memeza (Call Out) for 16 Seconds" campaign, spearheaded by the Spousal Office and the Department of Social Development, encourages residents to speak out against violence and abuse.

Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, wife of Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau, said at the launch of the campaign on 25 November: "Memeza (call out) if you experience or know of someone who needs assistance. There are programmes and places of safety where you can access help and support."

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