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Lack of state funding 'cripples fight against gender-based violence'

24 June 2019 - 13:19 By Nico Gous
Insufficient funding, late payments by the social development department and poor infrastructure are among the issues faced by women's shelters.
Insufficient funding, late payments by the social development department and poor infrastructure are among the issues faced by women's shelters.
Image: 123RF/olegdudko

A lack of government funding for shelters is halting the fight against gender-based violence in SA.

“We are not just talking about gender-based violence. We’re talking about femicide, we're talking about rape. We’re talking about women who will run to a shelter with multiple stab wounds that would require more medical attention and a longer stay in the shelter.

"So, really, the funding is not enough at all,” Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) acting chairperson Tamara Mathebula said on Monday.

Mathebula was speaking during a media briefing at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where the CGE released an investigative report into the state of shelters in SA.

CGE commissioner Nthabiseng Moleko added: “Women found in shelters usually stay in abusive relationships because, primarily, they are dependent on the perpetrators. They stay in these dysfunctional relationships and their lives are at risk.”

The CGE randomly sampled a government-funded, partly government-funded and independent shelter in each province and found:

  • Insufficient funding;
  • Late payments by the social development department to shelters;
  • Poor infrastructure and security in some shelters;
  • Lack of transitional housing;
  • Salaries were not standardised; and
  • Survivors struggled to adapt to normal life.

Mathebula said another issue exacerbating problems in shelters was that few were in city centres and some struggled to accommodate women with children. Shelters, on average, allowed residents to stay for six months.

“Most of the women were going back to the street with their children,” Mathebula said.

In Badplaas Shelter in Limpopo, survivors were housed in shipping containers. Mathebula said that at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Manenberg, Cape Town, residents could not go outside.

“The area is really not conducive for women to wander around to even stretch their legs, or go to the shop to buy airtime and other necessities.”

The CGE received three formal complaints which led to the report.

“Complainants complained about lack of counselling at the shelters, secondary victimisation and abuse, as well as the general conditions of the facilities,” Mathebula said.

Some positives from the report were that all facilities were fully staffed - but there were pay discrepancies, mostly linked to funding.

The report recommended that public hearings be held with the department to determine how resources were allocated to shelters, how the shelters functioned, how they co-ordinated with other shelters and how they could be standardised.