The battle for eradicating violence against women and children has a long, hard road ahead, but SU alumna Lauren October refuses to lose hope.
Lauren, who holds various degrees, including an MA in Political Science from SU, says she tries to “add the element of gender” into most of her interests.
From her office at the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, where she works as a Junior Research Fellow, Lauren has been tasked with designing a violence prevention programme that targets violence against women and children.
“My work is noticing the links between those two forms of violence including their shared social norms, common risk factors and intergenerational effects of violence – and that there are points where we can target these, especially starting young, as adolescence is a risk period for both violence against women and children.”
Lauren examines global programmes already addressing these forms of violence. She has found that many of the programmes are either designed for intimate partner violence and unintentionally reduced corporal punishment against children; or parenting programmes designed to increase parental communication which unintentionally reduced couple violence.
“Our goal at the Children’s Institute is to try and design a programme that intentionally targets both elements – of reducing intimate partner violence and reducing harsh parenting – so we’re trying to focus on parents and couples at the same time.”
She’s always been a feminist. “When you’re little and you’re playing, people tell you that you can’t do certain things. Yet I was raised into a very gender equitable home, where my father did most of the cooking. My brother and I were both raised to work in the garden and do chores. I didn’t realise this was against the community’s norms.”
She is also passionate about curbing the harmful impact of patriarchy on boys. “I started thinking about my brother and the impact of the community’s social norms – about how being a kind man ‘isn’t the real way to be a man’, yet a lot of the norms about masculinity are to be forceful, or dominate your partner, or have power. These things tend to harm men, who harm women and children.”
Being a Matie changed her for the better. “SU taught me a lot about gender and patriarchy. It taught me a lot about my own beliefs, and my own leadership capacity. It’s shaped a lot of my thinking.”
Lauren concludes that her work gives her hope. “There’s often a response towards violence against women. Working in prevention means you are chipping at this gigantic patriarchy statue very slowly, chopping it off at the feet. It doesn’t look like you’re making a big difference, but eventually that statue is going topple.”
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