President Ramaphosa announced that government commits to allocate R1.1-billion (in addition to the current year’s funding) to address the gender-based war on women in South Africa. This is a welcomed response, however, the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WSM) says that the President must release his plan, to make clear to civil society what will be done with the funds, with specific details about where these funds will go and how they will be monitored.
WSM members held a peaceful placard demonstration outside parliament to highlight the plight of shelters for survivors of gender-based and domestic violence, prior to the emergency joint sitting.
Bernadine Bachar, Chair of the WCWSM and Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children says, “As people working on the frontlines of this revolution, we know first-hand that shelters for abused women and children play an absolutely-critical role in breaking the cycle of abuse. These services do not only enhance women’s safety in the long-term, but provide immediate safe spaces for women at risk from their dangerous partners.”
While the WCWSM says that it was somewhat disheartened that shelters were not specifically mentioned as a key intervention – especially since there is overwhelming evidence to support this – the NGO hopes that President Ramaphosa will follow-through on the commitments he made during the State of the Nation Address, to better fund shelters, and also those he made at last week’s March.
Joy Lange, Executive Member of NSM and Director of St Anne’s Home for Women and Children says, “There were a number of key positive commitments that we will definitely keep an eye on. Foremost of these, is Minister Patricia de Lille’s commitment to make housing available to GBV survivors.”
“This has long been an issue and an additional stress for women leaving shelters, once their shelter stay has come to an end. In some situations, if a woman has not been able to find employment, and does not have family or friends with who she can go live with, she may have no alternative but to return to the abusive home. We cannot have situations like these as it is likely that the abuse will flare-up again and probably intensify if she returns!” adds Lange.
Kathy Cronje, Director at The Safe House and Deputy Chair of WCWSM says, “We do not expect or want government to work in isolation. GBV is a societal problem and civil society and organisations on the ground must be included in government’s plans to address GBV. There are many civil organisations and NGOs working to ensure the basic human rights of the country’s women. We believe that it is imperative that the President and government actively engage these organisations, if we hope to work toward meaningful and lasting solutions to the GBV problem.”
“But, most importantly, women must be at the forefront, leading the discussions and actions to address the war being waged against us.” adds Cronje.
Cronje adds that the commitment to prioritise women’s access to employment – in government and in the private sector – as well as the overall plan to involve business, are also definite steps in the right direction. She says that the pledge to increase the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres, while also strengthening rehabilitation programs for offenders, as well as the President’s promise to clear the backlog in the Department of Justice, for rape and other GBV cases, also comes as good news.
Delene Roberts, Manager at Sisters Incorporated says, “The call to provide gender sensitivity training to Magistrates, law officials and policy makers, go hand-in-hand with the Shelter Movements’ call for increased and improved training for officials of the South African Police Services. We hope that equal emphasis will be placed on training for all frontline service personnel such as domestic violence clerks, nurses, and so on.”
“We are hopeful that, as a matter of urgency, the Departments of Social Development (DSD) and Treasury address the current gaps within the shelter funding structure and ensure that this is implemented uniformly across all provinces,” says Roberts.
For businesses and individuals who want to find out more about ways to contribute – services, skills, and/or funds – toward shelters for abused women and their children, please contact the Women’s Shelter Movement via www.wcwsm.org.za.