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Call for communities to engage

UNDP Resident Representative, Dr Ayodele Odusola calls for communities to engage in topic of bystanderism

Pretoria, South Africa – In the run up to the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa, in partnership with UN Women and the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) are launching a national awareness campaign. Aimed at raising awareness on issues of bystanderism, the campaign will address topics around the role of the bystander in gender-based emotional violence, toxic masculinities, physical violence, femicide, disputed and denied pregnancies and other related topics. The campaign will also interrogate the role of the church as a bystander. This initiative contributes towards the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on GBV and Femicide, specifically, Pillar two on Prevention and Building Social Cohesion and addresses the issue of the normalization of GBV.

In this regard, a bystander is defined as a friend, family, neighbour, co-worker, or a stranger who may notice situations of escalating risk for violence or become aware of the abuse of power in relationships and by their presence have the potential to alter the outcome of the situation. Bystanders may also be first responders who hear victims talk about their experiences and can offer support and referral to resources or provide negative responses that silence victims and compound their distress. They may also be individuals who are carriers of community norms related to GBVF.

“By launching this campaign, we aim to demonstrate that everyone can do something. It is possible to engage without putting yourself or the victim in danger” said Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative of UNDP in SouthAfrica.

“For society to realise a generation free of violence, we have to establish a new norm that does not tolerate violence but rather seeks to ensure that everyone recognises it as criminal offence and our collective responsibility to create a society where all women and girls feel safe. As South Africa did to end apartheid, community action at every street, ward and district is what is necessary to build zero tolerance to violence” added Ms. Anne Githuku-Shongwe, Representative of UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office

This campaign aims to explore the small but growing body of evidence demonstrating that bystander intervention strategies can increase participants’ willingness to act, their sense of efficacy in doing so and their actual participation in prosocial bystander behaviour. One such study was carried out by UNDP and UN Women South Africa in 2017/2018 and revealed that there are a number of factors that influence the bystanders to act; chief amongst these are trust that their interventions are welcomed, that they will be helpful and that they will not put the victims at risk of retaliations. More importantly, the study concluded that once the bystander understands the role they can play and how they can get involved without putting themselves and the victim at risk, they are willing to play a meaningful role on GBVF prevention.

A central theme in bystander focused prevention is that everyone has a role to play in ending sexual and relationship violence. They have the opportunity before, during, and also after an incident to find ways to help and harnessing the potential harm and in this way, play a role at all levels of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary and have powerful potential as prevention agents to address GBV and femicide. As such, the campaign promotes Active Bystanderism and will provide tips and strategies on how anyone can be an active bystander and at the same time reinforcing messages on prevention of GBV whilst directing communities to sources of assistance.

“Gender Based Violence and Femicide happen right at our doorsteps; therefore strengthening community interventions will intensify efforts to call out and therefore deal with this plague, which was worsened by the advent of COVID-19” said Mr Xola Nozewu, President of the National Community Radio Forum.  


For more information, or media interviews please contact:

United Nations Development Programme, Rhulani Lehloka: 0663071827/rhulani.lehloka@undp.org  

National Community Radio Forum, Thabang Pusoyabone: 0845001219/secretary@ncrfnortherncape.org.za

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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.za.undp.org.


UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. UN Women supports UN Member States as they set global standards for achieving gender equality; and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, programmes and services needed to ensure that the standards are effectively implemented and truly benefit women and girls worldwide.


The National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) is a national, membership-based association of Community Radio Stations and support service organisations.  Radio Station Members are independent non-profit community based organisations, owned and managed by diverse local communities who actively participate in the development of programming activities for sustainable non-discriminatory local development. 



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