US govt supports SA's fight against women, child abuse

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cape Town - The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported the South African Government's programme focused on violence against women and children.

The $11.7 million Women's Justice Empowerment Initiative (WJEI), which is funded by USAID and the South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, was launched on Thursday.

Speaking at the unveiling of the WJEI, Minister in the Presidency, Manto Tshabalala Msimang said the initiative is aimed at improving the availability of comprehensive services for rape and sexual assault survivors in South Africa.

"The funding will go toward increasing the number of Thuthuzela ("be comforted") Care Centres (TCC) in the country where abused women and children are given a "one-stop" place where, if they have been raped or violently abused, they can access help quickly from trained and compassionate staff," the minister said.

The TCCs are part of the WJEI, which stemmed out of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign run by government.

To date, the minister said, there are already 10 TCCs countrywide that offer survivors emergency medical care, counseling, forensic testing and court preparation in a victim friendly environment. The new funding will see a further seven centres opened over the next three years.

"TCCs provide improved services (health and welfare) and initiate processes for effective reporting and prosecution of offences in a dignified and caring environment," the minister said.

She said the launch was dedicated not only to celebrating the partnership between the US and South Africa but also at finding ways of advancing the struggle for the rights of women and children who are the most vulnerable and abused people in our society.

"Rape and gendered crimes are the most abhorrent and shameful acts of violence in any given society. A country that does not respect its women and children has no future and is doomed to extinction.

"This violence must stop. We must unite and intensify the fight to stop gender based violence. And I hope that through this partnership and intersectoral collaboration we will be a step closer to achieving this objective by continually improving our interventions and responses in this regard."

Minister Tshablala-Msimang said violence against women and children was an obstacle to the achievement of gender equality, development and peace as stipulated in the country's Constitution and enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

"It is violation of the enjoyment by women and children, of their basic human rights and freedoms."

She said that the South African Government and its people appreciated and welcomed the United States' support through the USAID to support it in implementing its programme to upgrade and expand the one-stop Thuthuzela Care Centre network.

"This initiative has pioneered efforts to better protect the rights of women and children by providing vital support to victims of domestic violence, and sexual violence and abuse throughout the justice system."