Social media’s influence on public policy in gender based violence

Constitutional transformation is the cornerstone of our new democracy and has entrenched Constitutional supremacy in South Africa. However, regardless of our twenty-six years into a new democracy, we are still challenged with social injustice around gender-based violence in our country. These historical challenges are rooted in the legacy of apartheid, colonialism, and a patriarchal society. Although our Constitution and Bill of Rights protects the rights of women, and there has been progressive interventions around policy changes, we are still not effectively addressing the scourge of gender- based violence. Policy changes require active public participation to ensure social justice and the protection of the rights of women in our society. Today, with the advancements in technology the use of social media has become a popular tool in social movements and their mobilization strategies. This component of social media in advocacy has broadened the scope and reach of social movements and has in many ways created wider terrain for which public policy can be influenced. To enhance democracy public participation has become a critical component and has contributed to changes in public policy, as it signals the ability of citizens to engage in democratic processes and to make contestations where necessary. The primary purpose of this research is to investigate, using qualitative methodology and a case study analysis, how the #TotalShutDown: 24Demands campaign leveraged social media in influencing public policy on Gender - Based violence in South Africa. Individual semi structured interviews were used for the collection of primary data from national and provincial members of the coordinating committees, while document analysis was used for the collection of secondary data which was collected and analysed. The research study revealed that through the leveraging of social media the #TotalShutDown:24Demands campaign was able to influence the policy environment. In addition, the study revealed that social media, as a strategic mobilization tool, allows for movements to broaden the terrain in which they can engage with women, thus providing wider reach for advocacy objectives to be reached. In the study, this was evidenced by the movement as they were able to effectively create networks across the country (nationally and provincially) to achieve its mission as described in the 24 Demands. Finally, the study will also show how integrated methods of mobilization (making use of traditional mobilization strategies while leveraging digital forms of engagement) strengthen advocacy efforts and often results in multiple forms of movement building and advocacy. The main recommendations made were, for a more inclusive approach to the Gender Based Violence space on the issue of intersectionality that needs to be addressed. A deeper 3 engagement with what constitutes a feminist approach needs to be analysed as there were different interpretations to this concept. Finally, for meaningful changes in the policy environment of the GBV space a more holistic approach needs to be adopted in the economic, social, and cultural spheres.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Management to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022
Gender-based violence, South Africa, Social media influence