From the economic capital of Johannesburg, to Cape Town, South Africa’s most beautiful city, UN Women SAMCO painted South Africa orange in honour of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of 16 Days of Activism.
In Johannesburg, activities started in the morning, as UN Women SAMCO joined forces with Edcon – South Africa’s largest non-food retailer, and the group of which clothing retailer Edgars is a part – to launch the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women, and Edgars’ own campaign, EDgars UNiTE, turning everything orange in their wake.
The guests of honour were 40 women, survivors of abuse from shelters across the city, who were invited to Edcon’s headquarters for the day. The Gauteng Departments for Social Development and Community Safety as well as the South African Fashion Council also supported the campaign.
This initiative seeks to support victims of violence through skills development in fashion design, which will result in opportunities for job creation, financial independence and enterprise development. At the launch, the women were split into groups made up of women from different areas, and then had to design a garment using only fabric and safety pins. Later, they paraded their creations to much applause from the crowd. Celebrities from TV and radio, as well as many of South Africa’s best fashion designers, including Sun Goddess and David Tlale attended the launch.
In his speech, UN Women SAMCO Deputy Representative Themba Kalua said “It is heartening to know that core to the campaign today is not to just raise awareness only but to take this a step further through contributing to Women’s Economic Empowerment, giving them the skills and opportunities to reclaim their lives.”
Among the other speakers were Edcon CEO Bernie Brooks and Edgars Chief Executive, Birgitt Gebauer and CEO of the Fashion Council, Anita Stanbury, who stressed that women employed in the South African fashion industry each support between 5 and 7 people on average on their salaries.
The day ended with a play by students from the National School of the Arts that looked at various forms of abuse.
The campaign will continue with the women designing clothing with the hope that eventually they will supply to Edgars stores and other retailers. The women chosen for this programme will be coached and mentored by some of South Africa’s leading designers.
In step with continuing the UNiTE campaign, Edgars will also be turning their stores orange on the 25th of each month in 2016, starting from January 25 and taking the campaign to all of South Africa’s nine provinces.
Later, for two hours, from 8 to 10pm, Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain was lit up orange and white in honour of the UNiTE campaign, as well as the South African Department of Women’s colour for the campaign, white. At the same time, Barclay’s Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking, Stephen van Coller, delivered his keynote speech to the British Chamber of Business, wearing an orange ribbon. Barclay’s, as well as AngloGold Ashanti, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Market Theatre have all come on board to support the campaign.
In the coming days, UN Women SAMCO will be hosting a film event, to screen “The Man Who Mends Women”, about the work of Nobel-Prize nominee, Dr Denis Mukwege, with GBV survivors in DRC; we’ll be turning the National Catholic Bishops Conference orange and, in partnership with the Africa Collaboration Project, hosting Google Hangouts with university students on different topics to do with EVAW and turning Durban’s Green Hub orange, among other activities.
Table mountain will be lit up once again at the close of the campaign, on December 10th.
The campaign has been publicised in the Saturday Star, All4Women.com, and the ED’s Op-ed is due to appear in four newspapers nationwide, the cities’ biggest dailies, tomorrow, Friday November 27th.
To our colleagues at UN Women across the world, congratulations for a brilliant start to the campaign!