Leanne Manas on fighting the abuse of women and children

Leanne Manas on fighting the abuse of women and children

Leanne Manas says more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Leanne Manas
Leanne Manas/ Provided

South African media personality Leanne Manas is passionate about seeing an end to domestic abuse. 

She is involved in several projects that deal with women and child abuse. 

Despite 8 March being observed as International Women's Day, there is still more that needs to be done by society and governments to ensure women are protected. 

We caught up with her to learn more about the work she is doing. She also shared advice on how ordinary South Africans can play their part in building a better country. 

READ: Domestic abuse survivor urges others to speak out about their abuse

On Sunday, the world observed International Women's Day. What does the day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a day where all women’s issues once again come into the spotlight. It’s not something that in my opinion is ideal, because I believe that women’s issues should always be in the spotlight. But, unfortunately, until that’s the case, days like these are needed. They are needed to talk about the abuse against women. They are needed to talk about the suffering that women go through on a daily basis. And one day it would be quite incredible to have this day to celebrate how far we’ve come when it combats violence against women and children. We’re nowhere near that right now. Things are changing, things are being spoken about, and things are being highlighted, but in terms of leading to a better world, where women are treated better, far, far more needs to be done. 

You are passionate about seeing an end to the abuse of women and children. Tell us about the project you are running in this regard...

There are a couple of projects that I’m involved in when it comes to women and child abuse. But I think one of the best ones that I am currently working on is with Joko, and this is something that really resonates with me. Joko has come out in support of POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse) and for something as simple as buying 1 pack 100’s Joko, R1 of that is donated to POWA for their fight against women abuse. The monetary value that’s placed on the simple act of buying tea and sitting around a table and enjoying that cup of tea, is actually making a difference in a woman’s life.

That’s really what appealed to me and I think that’s one of the ways we can allow people to get involved in different partnerships. For me, partnerships in South Africa are perhaps one way of getting to the bottom of that unacceptably high abuse rate of women in South Africa. POWA does incredible work and to be involved with them in some way, through the Joko campaign, where #EndDomesticSilence takes centre stage, is something I really feel passionately about.

READ: Sarah Langa slams men who use money as a tool to abuse women

I do hope that more people not only buy Joko, but also buy into the concept of ending the silence of domestic abuse. Stop hiding behind it, stop hiding the abuse that you are living under and speak out so that can stop. Speak out so other women can follow the example and actually realise that this is not right - I do not deserve to be living in such fear.

What more can everyday people do in the fight against abuse?

People in normal everyday circumstances can certainly get involved if they see things that are wrong. If, for instance, you are being abused, please understand and realise that it’s not normal. You should not be living in fear of your life. You should not be hiding behind doors, walls, or make-up, or clothes, or whatever to hide your circumstance. You need to show the world what is happening to you and speak out, that’s the one way.

The other way is to open your eyes as an individual, it’s not strangers that are being abused, it is the people closest to you, it’s the people that you would never ever think in a million years getting abused that actually are. If you can see something and if you can help someone, if you can be their ear, if you can be that shoulder that that person can come end domestic silence to, then you are doing something right.

And finally, for me, men need to speak out against other men that are committing abuse. If you see this happening, call your friend out. And it doesn’t mean just because he is hitting another woman that you need to do something about it. Yes, obviously you need to do something about it, but if he is treating a woman in a demeaning way, if he is belittling another woman, being sexist, speak out against them. Let them know that is not right and show them that it’s not right and that you guys won’t accept it. We need you on our side. Because not every single man is an abuser, and I will never ever believe that because there are incredible men in this country. But we need you guys to help us, we need you to speak to your friends, your fathers, your sons. We need you to spread your good influence onto them. 

Do you think the government is doing enough to deal with the problem? If not, what more should it be doing?

I, unfortunately, don’t think our government is doing enough to protect women, I really don’t. I think that’s one of the biggest problems unfortunately in our justice system, is that there are more rights and there seems to be more protection for those who commit crimes than to the victims. And that does not make any sense to me or anybody else, unfortunately. 

Women go to police stations; they try and report these crimes and they are treated terribly. The cases that are reported hardly ever make their way into court and if they do, half of the dockets then go missing. You’ll find that if a lady does go try and report that something is happening in their home, they send them away and say, "You go sort out your issue, don’t come here, we can’t sort out your issues, you must sort them out." It’s unacceptable, we need to protect women, and this is something that unfortunately I find that our justice system and our criminal system is not working in favour of those that are being abused. 

READ: #16DaysofActivism: Durban abuse survivor shares story

Have you noticed any tactics used by other countries that could work in the fight against women and child abuse?

There are changes that are happening around the world and we are finding that women are getting the respect that they deserve, but we’re still very, very far away from a time where days like International Women’s Day don’t need to be around. They, unfortunately, do need to be here to still speak out against the atrocities that are being committed against women.

In South Africa, we are right up there, statistics show so many women in South Africa are being abused. In fact, 1 in 5 will undergo some form of abuse in their lifetime - and that is far too high. There are many countries around the world that are changing their laws, they are changing legislation. I mean, for me, just to even think of certain countries they say in their law that it is okay for abuse to take place, it is okay for a man to rape a woman, as long as that man then marries that woman. I mean that doesn’t make sense. Subsequently, a lot of countries have changed that law because it's been spoken out against so much.

But it still continues, the abuse of women still continues. We need to be taken seriously, this is not a joke, this is not something that is going to go away by itself. We need a lot of help; we need a lot of effort from those that have the power to help out.

What is your advice to abused children and women?

To women that are being abused, I need you to look at yourself in the mirror. I need you to look into your own eyes and realise that you are better than this, you do not deserve it, nobody deserves to be hit, nobody deserves to be belittled. And it’s not even just the physical abuse that you need to understand, it is the emotional abuse that will live with you for the rest of your life.

Unfortunately, we do learn to live with it, and it brings us down and we become victims. Stop being a victim, stand up and take control, take control of your life, turn around and realise that you are worth so much more than you give credit to. The thing is that you’ve been made to feel like you don’t deserve more. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do and you need to find that inner strength, wherever it may be.

Seek help, there are people in this world that want to help you. And I know that I am one of them. Through going to different organisations such as POWA, you are able to seek the assistance that you so deserve. We love you and we hope you find that inner strength to stand up for yourself. 

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