The Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCWSM) and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM) braved the storm to protest outside Parliament on Tuesday July 23, demanding that government releases funding to improve the state of shelters for abused women in the country.
The call is supported by research findings and recommendations set out in the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) Investigative Report on the State of Shelters in South Africa.
Bernadine Bachar, chairperson of the WCWSM and director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said the Department of Social Development and National Treasury urgently needed to address the 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,” she said.
“And, of course, without enough funds, shelters are unable to offer the programmes that survivors of abuse need, to heal and move forward,” said Ms Bachar.
Joy Lange who is an executive member of the NSM as well as the executive director of St Anne’s Home in Woodstock, said the biggest challenge they face at their shelter is that government only funds 40% of it, while they need to find a way to cover the 60% shortfall. “We do a lot of proposal writing, fund-raising, marketing, networking and generating our own income,” she said.
Delene Roberts, manager of Sisters Incorporated in Kenilworth, said they receive around 50% funding from the government and even though they make up the rest of the shortfall, it is still not enough to have the shelter running smoothly. “ We recently incurred unexpected maintenance expenditure and this literally blew our monthly expenses out of proportion,” she said.
Ms Roberts said certain funders don’t cover overheads. “I don’t understand how a funder or donor can expect a shelter to function to the best of their ability, if there is not enough personnel or enough funds to pay salaries,”she said.
Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, received the memorandum from the protesters. Ms Bachar said she was encouraged that the minister had personally received their memorandum, despite the inclement weather. “Hopefully our engagement will be the start of a process that will ensure the protection of the most vulnerable members of our society,” she added.
After signing receipt of the memorandum, MsZulucommitted topayattentionto the concerns and suggestions raised in the memorandum and also encouraged protesters to continue raising their issues “as strongly as you possibly can, so that we can listen to you.”
Lumka Oliphant, Ms Zulu’s spokesperson, told the Tatler last Friday July 26, the department had raised the same issues that are in the recommendationsof the investigation by the CGE.
“The department is already in the process of implementing some oftherecommendationsandcommitted to co-operating with the commission as a strategic partner,” she said.
Ms Oliphant said the department had re-
quested a meeting with the commission to discuss the findings of their investigation.
The CGE report, which echoes the issues uncovered in a three-year research project undertaken by the NSM and the Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBF), with funding from the European Union, confirms that shelters provide absolutely critical services to abused women. However, the ability of shelters to render comprehensive services to women and their children is severely hampered as a result of chronic under-funding and highly-variable subsidies provided by provincial departments of Social Development for shelters across the country.
Both Ms Roberts and Ms Lange wants to continue doing work for their respective shelters as members of the WCWSM and NSM to raise awareness about the struggles they face with shelter funding. “We’re engaging relevant stakeholders about the plight of women’s shelters in the country and we’re also speaking at various Women’s Month events,” said Ms Lange.
“At this point in time the WCWSM is planning to have silent protests every second month and Sisters Incorporated will definitely be part of this,”said Ms Roberts.
Additional reporting by Wesley Ford.