Gender-based Violence

Campaign to ensure the speedy and effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.

In 1999 Soul City and the National Network on Violence Against Women (NNVAW) conducted a successful advocacy campaign to ensure the speedy and effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.

Gender-based violence is increasingly recognised both within South Africa and internationally as a profound violation of women’s human rights and a major barrier to social and economic development. Studies conducted in South Africa indicate high levels of domestic violence. The fourth series of Soul City dealt in large part with the issue of gender based violence.

Formative research conducted in preparation for the fourth series of Soul City identified a major gap in legislation assisting abused women to take action. The Domestic Violence Act of 1998 had been passed a year earlier and was hailed as a ground breaking piece of legislation for the way in which it held the police and the judiciary accountable. However, despite the potential for the legislation to remove major structural barriers preventing abused women taking protective action, there were unacceptable delays in the implementation of the new DVA. Soul City IHDC, together with the National Network on Violence Against Women (NNVAW) embarked on a partnership to ensure the speedy and effective implementation of the DVA. (The NNVAW is a national coalition of grassroots organisations and activists from both rural and urban South Africa.)

The campaign was successful in achieving its goal to ensure the speedy implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) which had been passed a year earlier but had not yet been activated. Member organisations of the NNVAW are currently monitoring the implementation of the Act to ensure it works effectively.

The campaign used a range of advocacy tools including lobbying, news media and social mobilisation.

The fourth series of Soul City itself conveyed substantial information on the new legislation to the general public through its television and radio dramas and through the publication of over 1 million copies of an information booklet on Violence Against Women. Building on the popularity and emotions generated by the storyline of the Soul City dramas, the NNVAW coordinated an extensive social mobilisation campaign which helped pressurise government to implement the new legislation. The Advocacy Campaign also involved training for the NNVAW members in advocacy skills and national and provincial advocacy related activities took place throughout the broadcast of the fourth series. Many of the Soul City celebrity actors from the television series spoke out as advocates at the NNVAW’s public meetings. A resource booklet on Violence Against Women was developed for journalists to enhance and improve the level of media coverage given to the issue. The booklet was produced in partnership with the NNVAW, the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and the Commission on Gender Equality. A Media Contact Directory was produced by Soul City IHDC to help the NNVAW generate media coverage on the issue of gender violence and the DVA. The partnership between Soul City IHDC and the NNVAW generated extensive media coverage to advance the advocacy objectives of the campaign.


  • Usdin, S., Christofides, N., Malepe, L., et al. The Value of Advocacy in Promoting Social Change: Implementing the New Domestic Violence Act in South Africa. Reproductive Health Matters Journal, Vol. 8, No.16, pp 55-65. November 2000.
  • Usdin, S. “Tv-entertainment and Advocacy for Better Health”, Chapter 6, in Finn Rasmussen and Bettina Ringsing (eds): Vælt dagsordenen. Kampagnen som poliktisk murbraekker [Tip over the agenda. The campaign as a political ram], Informations Forlag, Copenhagen, March 2002.

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