South Africa

Anti-GBV ‘artivism’ – Justice system continues to fail many survivors daily

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Community psychologist Prof Puleng Segalo’s current project is obstetric violence in the healthcare system.

As 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children gathers steam, nonprofit Quote This Woman+ asked community psychologist Prof Puleng Segalo some probing questions:

1. What work you do?

I work with the everydayness of gender-based violence (GBV). I focus on its trauma-effects on women’s lives.

One example would be how systems that are meant to care for women, such as public health, perpetuate violence in women’s lives.

My current project is obstetric violence in the healthcare system. Specifically, the disrespect, lack of care, and physical violence towards women obstetric patients.

ALSO READ: Research: Help understand issues faced by victims of sexual violence

2. What is the big picture most people don’t see in your field?

Most people are oblivious to the direct impact of systemic failures on people’s everyday lives.

Take a simple example; if a clinic treats women with disrespect, those women are more likely to not go back for the necessary prenatal care. This has huge implications for the delivery of a healthy baby and the overall health of the mother.

3. What is your biggest criticism of how South Africa is dealing with this problem and what can be done differently?

Policies and frameworks are commendable. But if these dismiss, or jar with, people’s lived experiences, then they will not have the intended impact and outcomes.

Our justice system continues to fail many GBV survivors daily. Government budgets should provide proper resources for clinics and police stations.

We need these spaces to be able to respond speedily and appropriately to survivors.

ALSO READ: GBV ‘alive and eating at SA’ — activist

4. What are you/your organisation managing to achieve?

I work closely with a women’s collective called Intuthuko embroidery collective in Ekurhuleni. Collectively, we make embroideries that depict, challenge, speak back and highlight the gendered trauma and violence that women go through.

We draw from visual arts to show the power of the visual in telling stories that are often difficult to talk about. We see our work as “artivism” – showing the power of artworks to teach and how art can be a form of activism and advocacy.

5. What keeps you awake at night?

Gender-based violence is a world-wide problem, particularly in SA, where many women die violently at the hands of men. This is a thorn that pricks me constantly and keeps me awake at night.

ALSO READ: Men in larger households more likely to experience GBV – survey

6. What motivates you to continue in your work?

I am passionate about my work and I am motivated to keep pushing towards social [gender] justice.

The community of women that I work with motivate me every day. I get hope from their strength amid perpetual hurdles, and their sisterly care – even in impossible circumstances.

7. Do you feel a lot of pressure to succeed in this work?

There’s always pressure to excel and perform well. However, I believe we need to pause and check whether what we do is contributing towards the betterment of humanity. For me this is what counts.

8. Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by my community and by the women collective I work with. It is through engaging with them that I learn and grow.

I’m also inspired by the graduate students I work with, whose academic journeys I facilitate.

This series of articles is a collaboration between Quote This Woman+ and The Citizen.

ALSO READ: 16 Days of Activism: Expert unpacks shock rise in children killing their parents

Meet Prof Segalo

• Prof Puleng Segalo is a community psychologist. She holds a PhD in psychology and a doctoral certificate in women’s studies.

• Her research interests are at the intersection of gendered trauma, visual methodologies, African psychology and decoloniality.

• Her work pays attention to the need of curbing global gender inequities.

• She is a psychology professor currently serving as the Chief Albert Luthuli Research chair at Unisa.

• She holds a PhD in psychology and a Doctoral Certificate in women’s studies and is the recipient of the 2022 Principal Award for Excellence in Research, awarded by the Unisa.