Mapping femicide in South Africa

About 3 children are murdered every day; and when a girl child under 5 years old is found dead, the South African Medical Research Council estimates that she is 8 times more likely to have been raped as well. Meanwhile, murders of women shot up by 117% between 2015 and 2017 and the South African Police Service (SAPS) is currently searching for more than 200 missing women and girls — only a fraction of whom will be found alive. Yet finding collated data about women and girl children who went missing or were killed in South Africa, is close to impossible. SAPS doesn’t make information available to the public about individual cases of women or girl children who went missing or were killed. And, even if they did, such a list would be incomplete, because many cases never get reported to the police.

Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism is an award-winning independent media organisation that specialises in narrative, solutions journalism focusing on health and social justice issues across Africa. With funding support from the Sylvester Stein Fellowship, the team at Bhekisisa will address the lack of access to information on femicide or missing women and girl children by collating information of the past decade (2009 - 2019) from three data sources: media reports, social media (Twitter) and an organisation that helps to find missing people. They will use the information to produce an embeddable, searchable map that will be published widely in the South African media.  

This free online resource will allow journalists to follow up with unsolved cases in their areas and pick up on trends in their areas to advocate for specific solutions. The data will support advocacy for changes in policing and justice systems. Perhaps in the future, families and communities may use the site to ensure that the names of their loved ones are not forgotten despite never making the headlines. South Africa media as a whole will also better contextualise the problem of femicide without relying on a handful of high-profile cases that make headlines each year.