Home>Human Rights>25 years ago, South Africa buried Joe Slovo. To mark this momentous occasion, the Joe Slovo Foundation officially launched White Ribbon South Africa to end violence and abuse against women and girls in South Africa through Primary Prevention Programmes
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25 years ago, South Africa buried Joe Slovo. To mark this momentous occasion, the Joe Slovo Foundation officially launched White Ribbon South Africa to end violence and abuse against women and girls in South Africa through Primary Prevention Programmes


25 years ago, South Africa buried Joe Slovo. To mark this momentous occasion, the Joe Slovo Foundation is officially launched White Ribbon South Africa to end violence and abuse against women and girls in South Africa through Primary Prevention Programmes in Trade Unions, Workplaces, Schools, Universities, Sports Clubs and Communities.

Let us make 2020 Joe Slovo year, let us Honour Joe Slovo and all those who Stood Up and Spoke Out for Human Rights and Woman’s Rights in South Africa in a practical and progressive way this year. Demonstrate your support for White Ribbon South Africa this year by taking the pledge to “Stand Up, Speak Out – Never Commit or Condone Violence or Abuse against Women and Girls”  wear a White Ribbon and take part in a White Ribbon activity in your School / University, Sports Club, Trade Union, Work-Place and Community.

Background – Crimes against Women and Girls in South Africa

Women walking freely in the streets and children playing safely in open spaces are at the core of the National Development Plan goal on safety and security. These basic human rights were enjoyed by many communities in the pre-colonial South Africa and are still enjoyed by some countries in the world today. A society that is free from fear of crime is essential not only as a basic human right but also as the foundation of economic development of a country.

Rape, particularly rape targeted at women and girls, is a serious problem in South Africa. The 2016/17 Victims of Crime statistical release reported that 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offences compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men. Using the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Statistics South Africa’s estimate that 68,5% of the sexual offences’ victims were women – a crude estimate of the number of women raped per 100 000 as 138. This figure is among the highest in the world. It is for this reason that sadly some have labelled South Africa as one of the “rape capitals of the world”.

This has a far-reaching impact. According to Stats SA approximately 50% of women in South Africa feel un-safe whether day (49%) or night (54) when walking alone in their neighbourhoods.  The NDP asserts that the fear of crime “has consequences for women and girls and their ability to achieve their potential in every sphere of social and productive life. Gender-based violence in all its forms denies women and girls the opportunity to achieve equality and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution”.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (and Girls) defines this crime as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women (and girls) including threats of such acts coercion or arbitrary depravations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

The mission of the Joe Slovo Foundation (JSF) is to keep the legacy of Joe Slovo and his work alive and to keep it relevant especially to the youth of today. The late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris at the funeral of Joe Slovo attributed Joe’s Political Commitment to his ‘Humanitarianism’ which Harris said “springs from a deep senses of identification with the oppressed, the ability to hear their cry, and acute awareness of the realities of poverty and a personal anguish at the suffering of fellow human beings”.

The Joe Slovo Foundation was part of the United Nations process in Africa to formulate the Sustainable Development Goals with an emphasis on SDG 5 Gender Equality

JSF started campaigning against Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) – first of all with the ‘Stop Rape Now’ Initiative and then later supporting Red October ‘Red Card to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) Campaign. As well as the United Nations “UNiTE 16 Days of Activism against GBV Initiative”. The feedback and findings that JSF received from its involvement in these campaigns was that:

  • Short term campaigns had little long-term effect
  • South Africa had a large number of very good Non-Profits and Community Based Orgs running centres and programmes by women to help women
  • Conversely South Africa had very little by way of Primary Prevention Programmes (PPP’s) aimed at men and boys

For these reasons JSF looked at other countries where there were successful PPP’s on VAWG. For the uninitiated Primary Prevention Programmes are more about (as a bad example) teaching people of the benefits of not drinking and driving or helping guiding them through ’12 step Programmes rather than about fining or imprisoning them after they have committed the crime. The White Ribbon Campaign was identified as having some excellent and serious long-term programmes, in addition to having a number of practical and social- media friendly campaigns. Originally founded in Canada some 20 years ago, there are now over 60 countries which are loosely affiliated and share programmes and work with each other for each other’s benefit. Over 27 million people world-wide, mainly men and boys have signed the White Ribbon Pledge to never excuse, commit or remain silent about male violence against women – or a local variant of that pledge. Subsequently, many these signatories have gone on to become more actively involved as ‘Ambassadors’ or ‘Champions’.

White Ribbon Campaign – South Africa

In mid-2018 – the Joe Slovo Foundation (JSF) created White Ribbon South Africa aka WhiteRibbon.Org.ZA utilising and localising many of the programmes that were available through other White Ribbon Organisations with whom JSF had forged links.  Curiously, although White Ribbon is in 60 countries and is associated with a broader movement, most of the really good stuff comes from WASP countries such as Australia and New Zealand. WhiteRibbon.Org.Za is an ongoing 365 days per year initiative that through proven Primary Prevention Programmes encourages men and boys to commit to taking at least one of these eight actions to show their respect for women and Girls In South Africa and to end the constant cycle of abuse be it Physical, Psychological, Emotional or Sexual , in the Workplace, the Community, School, University or at home.

Powered by The Joe Slovo Foundation; the goal is that through education, awareness-raising, outreach, technical assistance, capacity building, and partnerships, White Ribbon South Africa will continuously challenge the negative, outdated concepts of manhood and inspire ALL South Africans (Men, Boys, Women and Girls) to understand and embrace the incredible potential they have to be a part of positive change. Eliminating Gender Based Violence & Sexual Harassment from the Home, Schools, Universities, Government, Workplaces, Sports Clubs and within the Community.

The focus on men and boys is not however, a deflection from the real roots of the problems in the socio-economic system that reproduces the conditions in society that The Joe Slovo Foundation is concerned with.

One interesting observation of White Ribbon Campaigns in other countries is that they in some ways reinforce gender discrimination by focusing on Men and Boys challenging the attitudes of other men and boys rather than taking a more holistic approach and including Women and Girls which is what JSF is doing. A further observation is that much of the traditional White Ribbon literature refers exclusively to heterosexual relationships and ignores the LGBTQI community. White Ribbon South Africa will teach through its primary prevention programmes that what is important are healthy and respectful relationships whether Heterosexual or otherwise.

The first Public Step in the campaign is taking a pledge which in the case of South Africa is to  “STAND UP, SPEAK OUT – Never Commit or Condone Violence and Abuse against Women and Girls”  this is something each individual can do and is also an easy step for our leaders, public figures and celebrities to embrace. When a person takes The Pledge, White Ribbon South Africa – powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation then sends the person information on how to

  • Listen properly to women.
  • Reflect on and change their behaviour.
  • Disrupt others violence and abuse towards women and girls
  • Treat women as equals.
  • Choose how to be a New South African and how to act.
  • Talk to others about breaking out of the Apartheid Man Box (more information below).
  • Think about what they watch and the media they use.
  • Talk with friends, family and colleagues about respectful relationships and pornography.

The next step is becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador which means taking an online test, learning about the roots of violence against women and girls.

The links with other White Ribbon Campaigns has enabled The Joe Slovo Foundation to utilise some of their very successful primary prevention programmes and modify them for use in South Africa examples of which are:

  • Educational programmes in Schools and Universities – establishing these programmes as part of the curriculum
  • Trade Unions – placing Violence and Abuse against Women and Girls on the agenda of Work-Place negotiations
  • Companies and Institutions – Making Education about VAWG part of the Human Resources on-boarding process.
  • Municipalities – creating VAWG-free Zones
  • Government Departments – taking the lead and setting the standard for all South African’s to follow
  • Mentorship, Ambassadorship through Sports programmes

Examples of these Programmes in Action are:


South Africa has a proud tradition of strong, principled Trade Unions especially at standing up for not only for Workers Rights, but Human Rights in general and particularly for Women’s Rights.  As Nelson Mandela once famously said “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”. The Joe Slovo Foundation sees it as vital and appropriate that unions of all types engage actively in promoting the White Ribbon message as part of their remit to stand up for workers’ rights.

Much as everyone dearly would wish it to be otherwise, there is a persistent male-dominated inequality in how women are treated in the workplace; sexism, bullying and abuse of women are worryingly prevalent.  Powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation, WhiteRibbon.Org.ZA is calling upon Trade Unionists to take a stand, and to change workplaces for the better. We believe that Trade Unionists can lead by example and demonstrate solidarity, awareness and respect to their female colleagues.

What Trade Unions can do

  • Ensure there are procedures in place with employers that apply to women experiencing violence, bullying and harassment. These should include clear signposting for prevention, help, special leave arrangements and a confidentiality clause.
  • Powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation, WhiteRibbon.Org.Za can provide trade union branch training and literature on White Ribbon Campaigning. This training and literature have been derived from other Trade Union Campaigns around the world. An information pack is available with factsheets and guidance for trade unions, along with awareness raising materials.

Public Sector

In South Africa our Public Sector leaders and workers can have more influence to change South Africa for the better by leading by example through promoting a positive message of respect and tolerance, Public sector organisations, large and small, can achieve so much more than individuals can alone.

Powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation, White Ribbon South Africa can assist Public Sector Leaders to more effectively marshal their resources and personnel to challenge male violence and abuse against women and make a genuine difference. The action plan based on global experience is concise and wide-ranging and offers achievable goals for organisations to reach in order to bring about genuine change and brings with it mentorship and support from similar organisations who ‘have been there before and have faced the obstacles and resistance’ for example the Metropolitan Police in London UK have already agreed to assist South African Police if they so wish.

  • White Ribbon Government & Public Sector Organisations are awarded a certificate or plaque as public recognition of their commitment to ending male violence against women. They will also be permitted to use the White Ribbon logo and branding on signage, posters and promotional material.
  • Access to White Ribbon library of materials and information, including training, template press releases and presentations.
  • Support from the White Ribbon to assist in the organisation’s strategy to eliminate male violence against women
  • Access to White Ribbons’ International network of Government and Public Sector Contacts, including Individuals and Organisations similar to themselves that are all committed to the White Ribbon core message of ending male violence of all forms against women and girls.

Breaking the Silence – Schools Programme

Breaking the Silence is an e-learning programme for school principals and teachers, that is based upon the very successful programme created by White Ribbon for Schools across Australia. The programme provides foundation knowledge, tools and strategies to implement respectful relationships and domestic violence education in schools. Once having completed the programme, schools obtain White Ribbon Certified Status.

Building on existing initiatives

Breaking the Silence supports schools to bring about a commitment to stop violence against women. It builds on existing initiatives to strengthen a culture of respect and equality at all levels of the school community – through curriculum, role modelling from staff, policies and procedures, domestic violence education programs and strengthened family and community partnerships.

Schools are important to preventing violence against women and Girls

Young people form behaviours, social skills and relationships during their time at school. During these formative years, ideas about men, women boys and girls and their relationships are being learned. Exposure to harmful messaging and gender stereotyping can lead to attitudes that support inequality, violence, abuse and disrespect towards women and girls. But young men, boys and girls can learn there is a better way – this programme sets about helping schools and teachers learn how to educate their pupils (both male and female) about better ways.

Please enjoy the video produced by White Ribbon Australia which explain a lot more about this successful programme. https://youtu.be/TMF3YH-3nEE

The British Council has a ‘Connecting Classrooms’ Facility which provides Grants for Schools in South Africa to connect with Schools in UK who run similar programmes. Currently, the British Council has over 50 schools and facilitators in South Africa linked to this programme which it has committed to having trained as White Ribbon Facilitators to support the Joe Slovo Foundation.


Powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation, The White Ribbon South Africa Workplace Accreditation Programme engenders the whole of an organisations to a commitment to stop violence against women, meeting 15 criteria under three standards to create a safer and more respectful workplace. The Programme recognises Organisations that are taking active steps to stop and prevent violence against women and girls, accrediting them as a White Ribbon Workplace

The programme builds on existing BBBEE Gender Equality and Diversity initiatives, providing the tools to strengthen a culture of respect and gender equality at all levels of the organisation.  The program supports organisations to respond to and prevent violence against women, whether it occurs inside or outside the workplace, through supporting women experiencing violence, holding perpetrators to account, supporting all employees to challenge inappropriate behaviour and strengthening gender equality within the broader community.

The White Ribbon South Africa’s Workplace Accreditation Program team will work alongside organisations to guide them through the accreditation process. The Workplace Accreditation Program is internationally recognised and has reached hundreds of thousands of employees globally.  The programme has been independently evaluated and referenced by International HR, human rights, domestic violence and education professionals, ensuring a best practice product.


Why become a White Ribbon Accredited Workplace?

Violence and Abuse against Women and Girls (VAWG) also known as Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a serious, BUT preventable issue in South Africa.  GBV – whether it occurs in or beyond the workplace – it impacts on the health and safety of all employees, their well-being and their productivity.  It impacts negatively on workplace culture, organisational reputation and bottom-line profit and loss.

Evidence has shown internationally that White Ribbon Accredited Workplaces are considered better places to work in for both women and for men as they demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to its workplace. Further they are more attractive places to work in.

White Ribbon Workplaces promote respectful relationships and gender equality within the workplace and demonstrate a culture of zero tolerance of violence against women.

The Workplace Accreditation Program supports workplaces to adapt organisational culture, policies and procedures, equipping staff with the knowledge and skills to address the issue of violence against women, both within the workplace and broader community. Accredited workplaces demonstrate effective leadership, resource allocation, communication, HR policy development and training.  Accreditation lasts for 2 years, evidencing an ongoing, sustainable commitment to the prevention of violence against women.

Once a company, organisation or workplace can demonstrate a commitment to this plan, it becomes eligible for the White Ribbon Award Status.  White Ribbon Award Status is an officially entitles an organisation to White Ribbon training and campaigning guidance, use of White Ribbon branding on official documents and signage, and exclusive access to a network of other organisations to promote fundraising, awareness and events.

Watch the White Ribbon Australia video and learn about the positive impact of their Accreditation Programmes https://youtu.be/pzqXUKCWPnI

Benefits of the White Ribbon South Africa Workplace Accreditation Programme 

  • Drive social change to strengthen gender equality and stop violence against women
  • improved workplace culture, office safety and morale
  • increased knowledge and skills of staff to address violence against women
  • improved retention rates and lower staff turnover
  • risk mitigation
  • improved productivity
  • reduced absenteeism
  • Vastly improved reputation

Sports Clubs and Organisations

Male violence and attitude towards women and girls in South Africa can shocking not just in the workplace or the community but at sporting events and in sports clubs where often women and girls can find themselves being thought of as ‘sport’ to be manhandled and misused. This can best be changed by promoting a message of respect and tolerance and leading by example.

Sport has always played an important part in the history and culture of South Africa and is a critical channel for raising awareness of the importance of respectful relationships throughout codes, clubs, members and fans. Millions of South African men, women, boys and girls play sport at some point in their lives, and it is important that the prevention of male violence against women is incorporated into training, games, events and broadcasting to reach further into the community and highlight a zero tolerance approach.

Powered by The Joe Slovo Foundation, White Ribbon South Africa will work closely with sports clubs to strengthen and extend the campaign and bring this important message to a wider audience.  With these accreditations, White Ribbon places an even greater emphasis on endorsement at every level of the club, sending a clear message to players, members and fans that violence, abuse and bullying against women and girls will not be tolerated.

White Ribbon accredited sports clubs have clear policies and systems in place for reporting, assessing and dealing with incidents of abuse, assault and violence towards women and girls, and foster an environment of reporting and condemning such behaviour as  a matter of course. Clear signage and appropriate information is displayed throughout club venues, demonstrating adherence to the White Ribbon pledge.

White Ribbon accredited sports clubs have clear policies and systems in place for reporting, assessing and dealing with incidents of abuse, assault and violence towards women and girls, and foster an environment of reporting and condemning such behaviour as a matter of course. Clear signage and appropriate information is displayed throughout club venues, demonstrating adherence to the White Ribbon pledge.

Powered by the Joe Slovo Foundation – WhiteRibbon.Org.ZA ‘app’

The initial brief for the Joe Slovo Foundation was to keep the legacy of Joe Slovo alive and “Powered by the JOE SLOVO FOUNDATION” the White Ribbon Campaign will assist enable this – particularly among the youth in South Africa as  a White Ribbon South Africa App is also being developed for later in 2020

A cursory glimpse at many of the White Ribbon Campaigns in other countries demonstrate that whilst the campaign has a long term impact – it is something that takes a long time to achieve and is an ongoing campaign with regular monthly some times weekly ‘events’ so whilst the campaign does have some ‘BIG ANNUAL EVENTS ‘ its NOT just a one off thing or just limited to 16 days a year and hence is kept in the public eye. For this reason an ‘app’ is being developed for younger South Africans to download and unlike many other apps which are one-offs, the WhiteRibbon app is designed to encourage ambassadors to become actively and continuously involved.


2020 is the 25th Anniversary of the Death of Joe Slovo. Let us Honour Joe Slovo and all those who Stood Up and Spoke Out for Human Rights and Woman’s Rights in South Africa in a practical way. Demonstrate your support for White Ribbon South Africa this year by wearing a White Ribbon “Stand Up, Speak Out – never Commit or Condone Violence or Abuse against Women and Girls”  and take part in a White Ribbon activity in your School / University, Sports Club, Trade Union, Work-Place and Community.

For further information about the Joe Slovo Foundation and / or about White Ribbon South Africa then please visit



Martin Dolny

+27 (0)79 697 1976

+44 (0)779.500.6203


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