By Nicky Le Roux

South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for gender-based violence. But thanks to the fearless women behind #TheTotalShutdown marches and their groundbreaking work with the government, the tide is finally starting to turn.

Mandisa Khanyile spent the afternoon of #TheTotalShutdown women’s march in Pretoria, South Africa, extinguishing one crisis after another. The permits she’d arranged for the rally in the city’s center were now being challenged. Human rights organizations needed to be on standby in case participants were beaten or kidnapped. The country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, had promised to meet her and her co-organizers to receive their list of 24 demands—plans they hoped would, with his support, end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in their country—but, suddenly, he was nowhere to be found. Her phone buzzed incessantly with questions from the 50-plus WhatsApp groups simultaneously running sister marches across South Africa and in Botswana, Kenya, even Venezuela and Germany. She was exhausted.

But at one point, amid all the furious texting, she paused and looked up at the more than 40,000 women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people rallying around her. She was floored…

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The Ford Foundation is a partner of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality.

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