Izwi Lami and Sexual Violence in South Africa

Levels of sexual violence in South Africa are among the highest in the world. Despite this, South Africa’s health services and law enforcement are still, in many cases, ill equipped to deal with the problem. Long-term Indigo grantee Health-e News are trying to address the issue through their Izwi Lami (My Voice) project to support survivors of sexual violence.

The Izwi Lami campaign was sparked by a 2017 study from Médecins sans frontiers that showed:

  • 95% of rape survivors did not go to a health facility after being raped.
  • Only 50% of the women surveyed knew that HIV was preventable after rape if they get ARVs within 72 hours of being raped
  • One in five new HIV infections in women and almost one third of abortions could be attributed to sexual violence.

While the report is specific to one area and there are regional differences in levels of violence and access, it highlights the depth of the problem facing South Africa. To address the issue, Health-e have developed a Survivors’ Support Service, a USSD service and online map that provides a directory of all specialized Thuthuzela Care Centres, hospitals, 24-hour clinics and shelters for survivors of sexual violence survivors across the country. The USSD service – developed in conjunction with another Indigo grantee, Grassroot – allows users to text the number *134*334# and they will be directed to help closest to them. Users can also use WhatsApp to text ‘Izwi Lami’ to 060 069 2788 and access information from there.

To reach the widest possible audience, the service clearly needs to advertise. Without a multi-million rand advertising budget, reaching sufficient numbers could be difficult. Savvy use of social media and phone messages, however, is allowing Health-e to reach many more people than via traditional avenues. Indigo is delighted to be supporting this advertising drive and we hope that, as a result, there will be much greater awareness of available services.