Josina Machel: ‘The Power within you will end gender-based violence’

Excerpts from speech given by Josina Z. Machel at the Women’s Day Luncheon hosted in partnership by UNFPA and MTN Foundation 17 August 2018. Published in the August edition of the SDG Bulletin South Africa. The SDG Bulletin South Africa is a collaborative product of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the United Nations in South Africa and the South African SDG Hub.


Good day ladies,

My name is Josina Machel. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I am also the daughter of the late, former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, and stepdaughter of the late former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela. My mother is the inimitable Graça Machel, former first lady of Mozambique and of South Africa.

Three years ago, my then-partner, in Mozambique used his closed fist to beat me twice in the face and once in the back of head. The second punch was so hard that the retina of my right eye burst and was permanently damaged, as a result I am now blind in my right eye.

You know, domestic violence against women and children continues to plague communities and nations across the world, regardless of the colour of your skin, the size of your body, the background of your family, your bank balance or education level – domestic violence affects women from all walks of life. Yet, I am considered one of the lucky few who made it out alive, some women don’t survive their brutal attacks. So, I feel doubly blessed – not only for surviving the violent attack but also for being able to stand before you today. I know that there are women who never made it out alive, who came out cold and are today buried and probably forgotten by the partners who murdered them – to those I pay tribute. To the girls and women that ran out, walked out, crawled out alive and injured, I salute you, for your bravery. I hope that as each day comes, it’s an opportunity for your continued healing, strengthening, restoration and regeneration.

So, by the way, I am not sexist when I speak only of female victims of domestic violence, but the numbers are clear, in South Africa for example, 75.5% of domestic violence is committed by men, and worldwide one in three women are killed by their partners or family, and the numbers of men who fall victim to this are very minute. As this day comes to a draw, at least five women somewhere in the world have died in the hands of their partners, that’s what the statistics show. GBV and abuse of women in South Africa has reached a state where it has become a National emergency.

I wish I could call them out by name, to honour them, and honour their last moments which must surely have been horrifying as they took their last breath approaching that undeniable face of death, but I cannot! There are also those that cannot talk, who have been brutally harassed and forced not to talk, some have been maimed and cannot talk even if they wanted to.

Today I’d like to ask you to make it your business to speak for them. Make it your business to speak for our grandmothers, for our mothers, for our sisters, for ourselves. To use your power from within to change your reality and the future of our children!

What if I told you that you can overcome anything, any circumstance known to man? You can, draw strength from the source of power that resides within your centre, your gut! It’s not easy but it is fundamental to your survival and to your loved ones. Resilience comes from the power within you. It is built in the most painful and challenging times (those that you recognise – oh this certainly will kill you).

There are also those who have survived, and can talk, but have chosen not to talk because they fear for their lives. They are afraid to speak out because they believe that it will be a waste of time to speak out, that nothing will change. It’s probably a combination of reasons, but I would like to encourage you to speak on their behalf as well.

Some cultural traditions in certain parts of the world, particularly in my beloved Africa, continue to perpetrate stereotypes that oppress and violate the rights of women. Believe it or not, a lot of our mothers and fellow sisters still believe that if a man doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t love you, but that is not love! Love is kind, not easily angered, does not keep record of wrongs – quote from the scriptures.

So, let’s work together to dismantle these warped cultural and traditional perceptions that harm all

of us. I challenge you together with cultural custodians (traditional leaders and healers, religious leaders, community elders, civil society, stewards of culture, boys, men, fathers and celebrities alike) to play an active role in redefining negative customary and traditional practices into positive social behaviour. Let’s cultivate new perspectives and societal behaviour that helps in the healing and regeneration process for survivors of domestic violence. Until when we are going to allow that the man who beat, rape, maim and kill continue with their identities protected? Until when we will continue to say Josina was beaten? Karabo was killed? Khensani was raped? Who raped? Who killed? We must start saying Rufino beat Josina. Sandile killed Karabo. X maimed Tsholo, and Y raped Khensani. Men must be named in order to take responsibility and be accountable.

And as for me, I will continue to speak out and to tell my story. I will continue to use my voice to help make a difference. In the work that we do at Kuhluka, we want to strengthen and give a new hope to survivors of Gender Based Violence and domestic violence. We continue to provide safe spaces where all wounded women can be validated, taken care of in safe spaces and be regenerated. Together with you, we want to stop this human rights violation of one group of people by another.

To our governments and political leaders, women’s ministries, treasury and finance departments – Gender Based Violence is a serious human rights violation, and more needs to be done all around the world more so in the SADC region. Begin to treat Gender Based Violence with the urgency given to any other human rights violation. Governments need to increase funding for Gender Based Violence programmes, more so in the SADC region, governments must prioritise the registration of accurate figures; on the number of women affected by Gender Based Violence. We cannot estimate, we need accurate figures in order to address the problem with interventions that speak to the specific issues.

Ladies, as you leave this place this evening, make it your business to do something, whether small or big. Feel free to Tweet, post a message on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and other social media platforms; support a shelter housing survivors of domestic violence; lend an ear to listen; encourage someone and give hope; help someone through a journey to healing. I dare you, don’t just sit and do nothing, because we have a generation of young women coming up, and it’s your responsibility and mine today to make sure that tomorrow they are protected against domestic violence. Always remember that – You are unbreakable. Your soul is unconquerable. You can overcome anything as long as it comes from the Power that is within you.

I thank you.

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