A KwaZulu Natal man has walked from his hometown of Richards Bay to Joburg over 12 days in a bid to
raise awareness about the plight of abused women and children.
Jan Mabuyakhulu started walking from that coastal town on Sunday 16 and arrived in the City of Gold
on Thursday, 27 November – to a warm reception by City officials, led by Councillor Nonceba
Molwele, Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Health and Social Development.
MMC Molwele commended Mabuyakhulu’s efforts to support victims of abuse, saying it is in line with
the City’s commitment to fight gender violence and the abuse of children.
"The City is committed to fight the scourge of violence against women and children. Let Mabuyakhulu
be an example to all members of the community, especially men, to stand up and work with the
government to end this scourge".
Mabuyakhulu had purposefully planned for his walk to coincide with the international campaign – 16
days of activism for no violence against women and children. Now in its 16th year, the campaign is
held annually between 25 November and 10 December to raise awareness about the scourge of gender
based violence and its impact on communities.
It aims to stress the message that gender-based violence is an international human rights violation
and should not go unnoticed.
The campaign also aims to challenge perpetrators of violence to change their behaviour, involve men
and boys in helping to eradicate violence and provide survivors with information about services and
organisations that can help lessen the impact of violence on their lives.
Mabuyakhulu says the onus to protect and prevent sexual violence against women and children is on
all men. “I’ve always been enraged by media reports about elderly women being raped and how crime
against children is on the increase. I felt that I had to take a stand, to say to my peers that we
should not allow these kinds of crimes to happen in the name of men,” he explains.
He wants to work with men and boys who believe in gender equality to end gender-based and sexual
During the walk, Mabuyakhulu stopped at different municipalities along the route he travelled,
encouraging different people to speak out and act against the abuse of women and children in their
communities. He received a warm welcome everywhere he stopped, he says – noting that some people
were however sceptical about his initiative while some offered little help.
Mabuyakhulu chose to raise awareness through an unconventional way – walking a distance of 637, 9
km kilometres – because he believed it would get the attention of authorities and ordinary people
and spur them into action.
He’s worried society has become desensitised to violent crime against women and children.
“All men need to act and speak out against abuse because it affects all of us. It’s enough now, we
are sick and tired,” he says.
He believes citizen activism is the best way to curb the scourge of abuse in society and says he
was spurred to action by the high number of crimes perpetrated against women and children across
Mabuyakhulu says all men should know that any form of violence violates human rights and human
dignity. “If we can take a stand against the abuse of women and children each day of our lives,
then we will be able to make a much bigger impact, than just highlighting the scourge during the 16
days campaign. It’s up to all men to stand up and criticise criminals and convert them.”
The City, the private sector, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and the media
all participate in the annual drive to increase awareness of violence against and abuse of women
and children, and the negative effects it has.
Mabuyakhulu says men should not be allowed to perpetuate violent crimes against women and children
with impunity; he calls on the justice system not to be lax in meting out punishment for such
crimes. “We can’t always blame the police and the government for lack of action against these
crimes; it’s up to us to rally each other to fight against this scourge.”
The walk was not without difficulties, Mabuyakhulu says, adding that he slept at police stations,
community centres and out in the cold on some days. “I experienced a lot of difficulty along the
way even to the point of wanting to give up, but I had to keep encouraging myself to continue
because the message of the initiative was important and had to be carried out. I had to achieve my
goal,” he explains.
“I was very happy to arrive in Joburg because I received a very warm welcome from people of
different races and ethnicities, it was encouraging.”
Now that the walk has been completed, “I have to return home but not before I visit different
communities in Joburg where they’ve experienced crimes against women and children, to encourage
them to speak out and condemn violence against women and children”.
Persistence and perseverance had underlined his journey, he says. “We can’t always rely on the
police and authorities to protect children; I have to do it for myself, my neighbour and for my
community. Each child in the community is my child, I have to take a stand as a man, and say this
should not happen in my name.”
This year’s campaign was officially launched on Gauteng’s east rand by President Jacob Zuma, who
highlighted the need for society to reclaim its moral campus and protect vulnerable women and
children, who are increasingly becoming vulnerable to violent crime often perpetrated by people
known to them.
Members of the public can pledge their support by volunteering to help non-governmental
organisations and community groups that assist victims of sexual violence.