Sonke Gender Justice

For 13 years, Sonke Gender Justice has worked across Eastern and Southern Africa to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS. In 2006, violence against children became part of the larger purview of Sonke’s work, as the organisation placed emphasis on recognising lifelong events, both positive and negative, that define and determine outcomes later in life.

“I firmly believe there is a link between abuse in childhood and the potential perpetration of violence in adulthood,” said Angelica Pino, the Programmes Director at Sonke. “We are not a child’s rights organisation – we are a women’s rights organisation. But there’s a connection between those two, which is why it relates to our work.”

Sonke implements a multitude of programmes to enact change, engaging caregivers, community members, policymakers, faith leaders, and more. Applied and action-oriented research – and the data and evidence that research generates – provides the bedrock of Sonke’s programming.

As End Violence’s Partner of the Month, we highlight their evidence-based, data-driven work to end violence against women and children as an inspiring example of how to create social change.

Fighting corporal punishment through advocacy

In 2013, Sonke played a lead role in ending corporal punishment against children in South Africa. Building on a positive Norms and Values platform, one of the seven evidence-based INSPIRE strategies, the organisation launched a media campaign, MenCare, that promoted positive discipline and demanded the prohibition of corporal punishment on the national level. This campaign followed with the dissemination of a variety of media tools, such as videos, televised interviews, and radio spots, along with the wide diffusion of fact sheets and infographics on the harms of corporal punishment.

Using grassroots activism and tested social norms strategies, Sonke also supported a case against a church congregation at the South African Human Rights Commission. The church was promoting the use of corporal punishment against children to its members, and Sonke – along with a coalition of partners – represented civil society’s rejection of their perspective.

“Throughout the trials, we spoke with one voice,” said Pino. “We don’t accept violence against women, so why would you accept violence against a child? That was the key message.”

For years, Sonke continued to push for the end of corporal punishment in South Africa, including through the creation of a documentary on the topic: I’m Scared of My Teacher.

This critical work contributed to the eventual prohibition of corporal punishment throughout the country on 18 September 2019. Using data to drive action, Sonke pushed forward the transformation of harmful social norms – and then pivoted this work into a radical reform in the law, addressing INSPIRE’s Implementation of Laws and Policies.

FACT SHEETSAcross the world, similar myths are used to perpetuate corporal punishment against children. Sonke developed a series of fact sheets to debunk those myths using rigorous research evidence.

THE PROHIBITION: Learn more about the prohibition of corporal punishment in South Africa.

The Sonke CHANGE Trial

Across East and Southern Africa, Sonke continues to work on issues related to gender justice. We encourage our readers to explore Sonke’s work with the CHANGE Trial, which deployed community mobilisers to reduce men’s use of violence against women. The activities in this programme reached nearly 15,000 people through workshops, door-to-door communication, street interventions, gender-based violence talks, and more. But even so, the intervention was largely unsuccessful at reducing violence against women.

The CHANGE Trial is a potent reminder of how entrenched gender norms can be in societies around the world. While the trial failed to transform harmful gender norms, the learnings that came out of the Trial are significant. In the below documents, you can read more about why the intervention was unsuccessful, an analysis that is too often missing when our efforts fall short.

Congratulations to Sonke Gender Justice for combining courageous activism and research to improve people’s lives and continue our journey of learning in this field of violence prevention.

EVIDENCE BRIEF: Read more about Sonke CHANGE Trial research.

RESULTS: Learn about the result of the Sonke CHANGE Trial.

PEER REVIEW: Read a study that examines the results of this project using longitudinal qualitative data. 

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