January 18, 2021

Minister called out in the rain to hear plea to assist women’s shelters

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), one of South Africa’s Chapter Nine institutions established in terms of the Constitution, has released an Investigative Report on the State of Shelters in South Africa, which finds that chronic under-funding and fluctuating subsidies provided by provincial Departments of Social Development have severely hampered their capacity to provide comprehensive services to women and their children.

The CGE report confirms that shelters, which provide absolutely critical services to abused women, also face other challenges, such as onerous bureaucratic funding processes and drastically late funding subsidy payments which makes even delivering basic shelter services untenable.

This was the gist of a report handed over to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, by the Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement (WCWSM) and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM), who braved a severe Cape storm to protest outside Parliament to demand that the government releases funding to improve the state of shelters for abused women in the country.

Shelters for abused women 'severely hampered' by chronic under-funding and fluctuating subsidies.

The CGE report on the state of shelters for abused women in South Africa is the product of a three-year research project undertaken by the NSM and the Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBF), with funding from the European Union. It confirms that shelters provide critical services to abused women, but these are often compromised due to erratic funding.

Head of the Executive of NSM and Director of the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development, Dr Zubeda Dangor, said, “It is incredibly important that government ensures that shelters – which render services to survivors of gender-based violence – receive sufficient funding to enable them to meet women and children’s needs. Funding provided by government to shelters must be aligned with what it actually costs shelters to render these services. This funding must also factor-in sufficient funding to enable shelters to employ enough staff.

“This funding must be done uniformly across all provinces. This will enable facilities to better meet the multitude of needs of survivors and the standards set by the department.”

The study was accompanied by a memorandum handed over to Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who joined the women protesting outside parliament in the pouring rain. Taking shelter under their umbrellas she welcomed the efforts of the NSM and the WCWSM, and agreed that the significant, positive impact shelters are making in abused women’s lives can only be sustained if adequate resources are made available.

Chrislynn Moonieyan, Shelter Manager and Social Worker at Masimanyane Women’s Rights International in the Eastern Cape, said, “We cannot stress enough how important it is for the Department of Social Development to expedite committed payments in a timely fashion, since delays cause a host of new problems. Furthermore, the need for adequate personnel-related subsidies will ensure that some of our shelter staff, like housemothers, do not get paid less than the National Minimum Wage and that shelters have the correct staff complement per shelter. These are all issues that require immediate action.”

Joy Lange, Executive Member of NSM and Director of St Anne’s Home for Women and Children, said: “When DSD funding is delayed, this has significant negative consequences for shelters, their personnel and those they serve. As it stands, no shelters in the Free State have been allocated funding for the new financial year, while funding to some shelters in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West are four months overdue. This must be addressed immediately.

“Grace Help Centre in North West, for example, is the only shelter for abused women in that province, yet they have not received their first tranche of funding for the new financial year. The shelter has had to let some staff go, while the manager has had to take out a personal loan to ensure that the shelter can continue to provide accommodation, food and basic services to 20 women who are currently at the shelter,” Lange said.

The protest also requested that funds for shelter maintenance, repairs and building infrastructure be included in longer term funding plans.

According to Bernadine Bachar, Chair of the WCWSM and Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, “We need the DSD and National Treasury to urgently address the current gaps within the shelter funding structure and it should be done uniformly, across all provinces. It does not make sense that in one province, shelters get as little as R9 per person per day to meet the needs of women residing at shelters, while in another province shelters get up to R71. And, of course, without enough funds, shelters are unable to offer the programmes that survivors of abuse need, to heal and move forward.”

NSM Northern Cape Shelter Representative and Social Worker at Ethembeni Shelter in De Aar, Rose Bailey said, “It was good to hear that the Minister wants to work with civil society towards improving the lives of our people. She also acknowledged the valuable and empowering contribution of shelters. And, if properly funded, shelters are the perfect complement to the Minister’s goal of focusing on solutions that will have a lasting impact, rather than piecemeal ones”

“The Minister highlighted a number of issues that are the same concerns that we continue to emphasize. This includes the need for a more integrated approach from government, where the various relevant departments work to address those issues that are within their scope, and thereby improve people’s lives. We urgently need improved access to quality housing, improved infrastructure and transport solutions, and more. DSD needs support from other departments, to truly be able to ensure long-lasting social development,” NSM Free State Shelter Representative, Sarah Lekale added.

The Director at The Safe House and Deputy Chair of WCWSM, Kathy Cronje said, “I am optimistic about Minister Zulu. She says that she wants to learn from the mistakes of the past, while building on the successes. And, it is clear that there have been many mistakes because while Women’s Month should be a celebration of the feminine strength in this country, the statistics clearly show that keeping the country’s women safe, is still our biggest challenge.”

Released by Natasha Adonis, on behalf of the Shelter Movement.

Photo from GroundUp


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  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Wednesday, 24 July 2019 18:51

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