On Sunday, October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano, known for her roles in Who’s the Boss? and Charmed spawned a global social media movement to raise awareness of the rampancy of sexual assault and harassment.
She wrote on Twitter asking people to share the hashtag #MeToo with the hope that it “might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Inspired by recent reports of sexual abuse and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein from numerous Hollywood actresses, by Monday evening the movement had garnered over 500,000 responses on Twitter alone according to the Hollywood Reporter.
While the campaign has proven to be successful globally, I noticed on Facebook that of the vast #MeToo posts that streamed on my page, only two besides mine were from my Batswana friends. I decided to perform a quick geolocation search on both Facebook and Twitter to find out how many people were posting about it locally, and to my dismay, of the publicly available Facebook posts and tweets, there were less than 10 people who had engaged in the campaign.
According to Emang Basadi, a non-governmental, nonprofit organisation that supports women’s rights, in Botswana, rape has been rising at an annual rate of five percent since 1982.
Per a report by Thursdays in Black, an association that campaigns against gender violence, in South Africa, it is estimated that every two minutes someone is raped. Per the Wangukanja Foundation, one in three girls in Kenya has been sexually assaulted.
Finally, per the Women at Risk Foundation, Africa has the highest prevalence rate of sexual child abuse around.
With these high sexual assault statistics, why is it that it appears that Batswana were silent on a subject that affects thousands of women and girls living in our country and continent? Were we silent because we did not receive the memo or do we think Harvey Weinstein is too far removed from us to care? The reality is that the Harvey
Perhaps, does our silence point to something else? – that we have ignored the cries of women and children for so long that they have learnt to quietly die in silence about it? That as a society rape is still something we do not openly discuss and address head on – much to the detriment of survivors? That the reality is we still value and defend the patriarchal structures that defend perpetrators while making survivors – mostly women – feel like they were responsible for their assaults?
With women and child sexual abuse so high in our country and continent, it is imperative that we capitalise on such global movements to raise our voices to break the silence and stigma that surrounds rape. We should contribute our voices to such global movements with the hope that when one part of the world breaks through, it will ease the process for us too to realise a better society were patriarchal systems that prop up rape culture are no longer supported.
While a hashtag will not solve the problem of sexual assault and harassment by itself, it is a small step in the right direction of dismantling rape culture and creating a better society where perpetrators are held accountable at whatever cost, and survivors feel heard and supported.
*Harvey Mogojwe is a freelance writer with a background in the liberal arts. He likes to write self-help, business and productivity articles. You may reach him on Twitter @cupwithtea for writing engagements