University of Pretoria (UP) Financial Sciences student Tanya Šafrová is calling on the UP community to heed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to mourn the individuals who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and gender-based violence (GBV). President Ramaphosa called for five days of mourning, from 25 to 29 November, during which national flags will be flown at half-mast. The five days coincide with the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which are observed from 25 November to 10 December.
Along with the first-year Accounting class she tutors, second-year student Šafrová would like the UP community to share pictures of themselves dressed in black, wearing masks and displaying a short motivational message on an A4 poster. Those who would like to take part in this initiative are encouraged to use the following hashtags in their captions on social media:
#UPRemembers, #UP16Days, #EndGBV
Šafrová and her first-year class felt they needed to do something after the President made a request to the nation, during what is now known as a “national family meeting” (presidential address), to wear a black armband or to engage in other symbolic ways of mourning.
“The President announced that Cabinet had called for a period of mourning from 25 to 29 November in honour of those who had lost their lives because of COVID-19,” says Šafrová. “When he announced this, I was brought to tears because I have experienced loss this year, as have the first-year students I tutor. I immediately pitched the idea to the students of asking people to share pictures of themselves in black and wearing a mask, with a motivational quote in hand. The feedback I received was overwhelming and set the wheels for this initiative in motion.”
Members of the UP community are encouraged to share pictures of themselves on social media dressed in black, wearing masks and displaying a motivational message.
Šafrová suggested that this initiative should transcend merely posting pictures on social media, and urged people to be conscious of how they interact during this period.
“If you go to a pharmacy, thank the pharmacist that helped you; if you see a doctor, thank that doctor that helped you,” she says. “These people put their lives on the line every day. Show kindness everywhere you go, because you might not know what that person is going through or has been through; a gesture as small as this could lift their spirits. This is the difference I wish to see from my peers and lecturers.”
Šafrová also emphasised the importance of acknowledging the pain of others.
“If you acknowledge another’s loss, pain and grief, the message you express is, firstly, ‘I am here for you and can sympathise with you.’ Secondly, you help that individual to feel less alone; finally, you assist in their healing process.”
Through this initiative, Šafrová feels there is an opportunity for the UP community to band together and show support for those who really need it during this time.
“Members of the UP community should honour the President’s call in order to showcase our unity, strength and our commitment to comply with the alert level regulations, and to grieve with the families who are going through a painful period. We need to put out a message that those who are grieving are acknowledged. If you know a person who has lost someone close to them, acknowledge them through this initiative to remind them that they are not alone.”