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Simon Atkinson

Deputy Head of Mission, Cape Town

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in South Africa

26th November 2012 Cape Town, South Africa

Prevention of Gender Based Violence

I have just returned from a visit to South Africa’s Eastern Cape – one of the three provinces we cover from the Consulate-General in Cape Town (the Western and Northern Capes are the other two provinces).

As well as Port Elizabeth and East London, I visited the rural towns of Craddock, Bedford and Graaf-Reinet, talking to various people along the way (something I really enjoy about my work – the people I get to meet). They included politicians, civil society members, journalists, and farmers. We discussed issues ranging from politics to the controversial topic of fracking; but there was one subject that left me pretty shaken: gender based violence (GBV).

I spent an afternoon with Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre (MWSC), who work directly with its victims (we part-fund some of their work). Both the nature and extent of this type of violence is, to put it mildly, horrific.

South African women and girls suffer one of the highest levels of gender-based violence in the world. Survey data has shown that an estimated 42% of South African men have perpetrated violence against a partner. Incredible stats, made worse (if that’s possible) by the fact that violence against children is also pervasive.

The causes are wide and complex. But, listening to MWSC, I can fully understand why they simply call it a “sickness”.

Addressing GBV across the globe is a priority for the British Government. In South Africa this has resulted in a new national GBV Prevention programme, with Unicef and UNFPA, providing support to the Department of Women Children and People with Disabilities/DWCPD.

The Programme includes a GBV Summit from 26-27th November, which DFID are supporting financially. Specifically, for the Eastern province – one of the focus provinces for the new programme – DFID will also contribute to a GBV film and media event there next year, the UNiTE Film Campaign to end Violence against Women and Children.

This will follow media activities and film festivals in Gauteng and the Freestate next month.

“16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children” started on 25 November. It is an excellent campaign. DFID’s programme will help extend this activism to the remaining 349 days of the year: for South Africa, this simply has to make a difference.

About Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After…

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After university at Leeds and 4 years teaching English and working for NGOs in Europe and South America, Simon joined the UK Foreign Office. His first overseas posting was in India, where he was a political officer covering issues like counter-proliferation and the relationship between India and its neighbours. He was also the Commonwealth Games Attaché during Delhi’s 2010 Games.

Cape Town is his second and current posting. His role here is dual hatted – as Deputy Consul General, he supports the Consul General manage the office, and as the Head of the Political Team, he covers the whole gambit of South African policy (though being based in Cape Town means this is heavily focused on domestic policies and Parliament).

Simon is married to Gina, who also works for the Foreign Office. They enjoy being in South Africa, as both a fascinating country to cover politically and wonderful place to live, allowing them to pursue their passion for the outdoors and perfect their ability to ‘braai’ (not that they’re under any illusion about how often they’ll get to demonstrate this skill once they return to the UK)!