Recognise shelters as 'key players' in dealing with gender-based violence
With the 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children campaign a few days away, the National Shelter Movement of SA (NSMSA) has urged the government and the private sector to acknowledge the “valuable role shelters play in dealing with the intensifying gender-based violence pandemic”.
NSMSA’s executive chairperson Dr Zubeda Dangor says it's hard to believe that it has “already been 30 years since the 16 Days Against GBV campaign started, and that for nearly half of that time the NSMSA has been shouting, begging, for more support for shelters without it coming”.
Dangor said their shelter teams were feeling despondent and burnt out without sufficient funding and support to help victims of gender-based violence.
She said all relevant stakeholders, including government departments, were bound by law to play a constructive role in putting an end to gender-based violence.
“Not only would this be a boost to current shelter services but, should more government departments have a stake in addressing GBV, then this would be a great help for survivors who would need the support once they leave the shelter.
“This could include support with economic empowerment and housing, which are critical for women to lead lives free of violence,” Dangor said.
The support from the stakeholders, Dangor said, would also mean more resources to help GBV victims from the LGBTIQ+ community, an area she said shelters acknowledge needs more awareness efforts and sensitivity training.
According to a report the organisation published last week titled Raising Women’s Voice in South African Shelters, while shelters provide space for victims of abuse to rebuild their lives, the facilities were under-resourced.
The report was based on research conducted on 101 women who were former residents of 31 shelters who shared their experiences.
The study found that most of the women it surveyed were in precarious financial positions.
“Almost half of them had dropped out of high school. Many received state child support grants and these grants helped with survival. Less than a third of women (27%) were in employment and most of these (95%) in precarious and low-paid jobs,” the report reads.
Given their financial positions, sheltering was the only possible solution because the women were not required to pay for being in the facility.
The women, the report said, were worried about being unemployed which they considered to be an obstacle in creating safe and “comfortable” lives.
The women resorted to shelters because they suffered abuse.
“Up to the point of their entry into shelters many of the women interviewed had experienced years of abuse. Some had experienced lifetimes of abuse, since childhood. Most women had gone through periods of depression, some had had thoughts of suicide, some had attempted suicide,” the report reads.
The women said they endured the abuse because they hoped their abusers would change.
“Most of the women, (71 or 70% of the 101) had sought shelter from the violence they experienced from their intimate partners,” the study found.
The women suffered emotional, psychological and physical abuse from their partners, who were mostly men.
In some cases, women carried lasting disabilities from the physical violence, the report said.
According to Dangor, the national shelter helpline has executed more than 1,300 shelter placements and has assisted nearly 2,000 further callers on GBV-related matters.
“In terms of call volume, the National Shelter Helpline, which turns one next month, is on par with the GBV Command Centre,” added Dangor.
Those who need help with GBV-related issued can contact the helpline toll-free on 0800 001 005 or send a Please Call Me or WhatsApp message to 082 057 8600.