Urgent call to address gaps in shelters supporting victims of gender-based violence

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Lack of sufficient funding, transportation for victims of gender-based violence, lack of social workers in some facilities, shelters’ compliance with the norms and standards were some of the gaps identified on the first day of the two-day National Shelter Indaba currently underway in Sandton.

Delegates heard that half of the shelters’ allocated budget was spent on salaries and this stretched the finances of shelters that require more funding to efficiently render services to victims of gender-based violence. 

One of the shelter managers, Sindisiwe Msimango from Mpumalanga, indicated that most shelters struggle with transport.

“Transport is a problem for shelters, as victims must be transported to and from police stations and health facilities. Nowadays, perpetrators of GBV are using sophisticated ways to track their victims and this poses a risk for both the victims and social workers,” she said.  

She said the lack of security and delays in the payment of subsidies from government also posed a huge threat to the safety of persons working and living in the shelters.

Rose Bailey, from a shelter in the Northern Cape province, asked for shelters to be treated with dignity and not be seen as charities, as they play an important role in saving lives and restoring women’s mental health. She appealed for more attention to be given to the work provided by shelters.
Joining the Indaba virtually, former Deputy President of South Africa, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, reminded delegates that GBVF was declared a pandemic and said that it should be treated the same way as COVID-19 where everyone, including governments, were playing their part. 

She indicated that more often than not, women continue to be failed by the system because when they report abuse “their cases are not efficiently prosecuted, and this discourages them”. 

Providing solutions to some of the challenges by shelters, Uber SA shared that they partnered with the National Shelter Movement of South Africa to provide safe transportation for victims of gender-based violence and women in general. 

Uber SA senior operations manager, Collen Mphabantshi, told the summit the safety of women is at the centre of their business. 

“Uber SA strives to ensure that Uber users can travel under safe conditions with, amongst others, access to pre-onboarding applications such as Driver Screening, Vehicle Inspection and Driver Profile,” he said. 

He revealed that to date, Uber South Africa has successfully transported 6 715 women and their children to places of safety through the National Shelter Movement of South Africa.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu appealed to the private sector to come to the table and assist in supporting the work that is done by government through shelters. 

“Often in these gatherings, the private sector is not sitting around the table. We call upon the private sector to play a role by availing suitable buildings and infrastructure which can be used as shelters for victims and survivors of gender-based violence and femicide,” Zulu said. 

The Minister said that shelters for victims of violence and crime have been a central and a critical resource providing care, safety, support, opportunities for healing and an understanding of the dynamics of abuse to South African women and children. 

“Shelters have provided a much-needed refuge where women cannot only be safe but take stock of their lives and receive the emotional support needed to make critical decisions. They also play a significant role in interrupting and breaking the cycle of violence,” she said. 

The Department of Social Development has allocated more than R211 million for a period of four years towards 134 shelters rendering victim support services across the country. 

The Minister reported to the Indaba what the department had done since last year’s gathering, including the development of an inter-sectoral shelter policy for victims of violence and crime.

She revealed that during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the department will launch another shelter in the North West province. – SAnews.gov.za