RESEARCH, Uncategorized


— Media Release —

Today (Thursday, 6 December), marks the final event the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM) and the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s (HBF) 3-year project, “Enhancing State Responsiveness to GBV: Paying the True Costs”. The project – which seeks to support State accountability for adequate and effective provision of domestic violence survivor support programmes, specifically those associated with the provision of shelter for abused women – makes a number of policy recommendations relating to funding of shelters, as well as on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA).

The event will include the release of findings undertaken in shelters in 6 provinces. Extensive research went into understanding how the State funds shelters, versus the funds needed. Further research was also done on the South African Police Service (SAPS) – which is often victims’ first point of contact – to understand how police officers deal with domestic violence situations.

Zubeda Dangor, Head of the Executive of the NSM, says that the project has helped a great deal to uncover the host of challenges that shelters face in the provision of services to women. She says, “It is important that decision-makers fully understand the pressures placed on these very important facilities, which exist to help fulfil their mandate to the women of this country.”

“Our research reveals that shelters are chronically under-funded and subsidies by government vary widely from province to province, and at times, even within the province. And, since the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) current policy does not fully fund the shelter services, shelters either end up providing inadequate services or spending a great deal of effort in raising funds elsewhere,” adds Dangor.

According to Shelter Manager, Delene Roberts, “It is very difficult to be responsible for ensuring the safety of our clients and provide the services they need to help their long-term rehabilitation and healing, while seeing to the daily running of the shelter, as well as all the work entailed to secure additional funding.”

Funding is also at times delayed, sometimes for up to three months in some provinces. This places shelters in precarious positions where some have even had to borrow money to buy food for clients while they await their tranche.

The research on police – which considered things like the extent to which police could refer women to shelters, as required by the DVA – found that responses by the police to those seeking shelter were often misinformed and apathetic. In some instances officials were unable (or unwilling) to assist abused women.”

Says HBF Project Manager, Claudia Lopes, “These studies have provided empirical evidence of the gaps in government’s approach to helping vulnerable, at-risk women who seek refuge at a shelter. By having an in-depth understanding of the funding and the resulting service delivery issues, we are better able to address them. We also now, have a better understanding of various other pitfalls that survivors have to contend with in the system.”

“Each year in South Africa, the 16 Days of Activism initiative drives home the reality that we still have a very long way to go to guarantee the safety and protection of the women of this country. For a country that still has among the highest instances of femicide, globally – we need the decision-makers to realise the significant, disruptive role shelters play in stemming ongoing domestic abuse,” adds Lopes.

“We hope the evidence will convince government of the undeniable value that shelters have for abuse survivors, and that it uses the findings from this project, to ensure the sustainability of sheltering facilities – with a view of making long-term impact, not only for those who have managed to escape the abuse, but for our society as a whole,” adds Dangor.

Reports resulting from the research, will be available on


Special Issue of the *Journal of Lesbian Studies*

“Lesbian”/Female Same-Sex Sexualities in Africa

Deadline for proposals: January 1, 2015

The *Journal of Lesbian Studies*, a peer-reviewed academic journal
published by Taylor and Francis, invites proposal submissions for a special
issue on the subject of “Lesbian”/Female Same-Sex Sexualities in Africa.

The multiple configurations of same-sex practices and relationships across
the African continent, alongside the problematic notion of homosexual,
“lesbian,” and “queer” identities in the African context, have been
addressed by various scholarly publications in the past couple of decades.
Yet same-sex interactions, relationships, and politics between African
women have not garnered significant attention either in feminist/queer
studies or in African studies, and remain largely unrepresented in academic
writings. This special issue of the *Journal of Lesbian Studies *proposes
to fill this scholarly gap by exploring this topic from a variety of
cultural and disciplinary perspectives. Contributions by scholars on the
African continent are particularly welcome.

The *Journal of Lesbian Studies* is an interdisciplinary journal; hence,
multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches are encouraged. Such approaches
include, for example, cultural studies, literary studies, cultural
anthropology, sociology, geography, social movement studies, political
science, psychology, and public health. Contributions from the perspective
of gender, queer, and sexuality studies and/or postcolonial or subaltern
studies will be given particular consideration.

Potentially relevant questions include, but are not limited to: how do
women who engage in same-sex sexual interactions and relations represent
themselves in Africa, both socially and discursively? How do they relate to
Western concepts of lesbianism or homosexuality? How do they relate to
culturally specific concepts of gender and sexuality in their respective
ethnic groups? How do they theorize and negotiate the intersections of
religion, racism, sexism, compulsory heterosexuality, and discrimination in
their respective societies? How do they position themselves in relation to
postcolonial and neocolonial politics? How do women respond to gender
diversity and transgender experiences within lesbian and “queer”
communities? How do these issues influence their identity formation or
their negotiation of subjectivity and agency? In what kinds of local and
global activism do they engage? What partnerships have lesbian movements
forged with feminist movements in African countries and across the global
South and North?

Ashley Currier and Thérèse Migraine-George are the guest editors for this
special issue. Please submit a one-page proposal, together with a two-page
CV, to either Ashley Currier ( or Thérèse
Migraine-George ( by January 1, 2015.

The guest editors will respond to proposals by February 1, 2015. Complete
manuscripts of approximately 7,500-8,000 words will be due by May 1, 2015

Gabriella Razzano

Gender, ICT’s and the new hairdresser

Gabriella Razzano
Gabriella Razzano

By Gabriella Razzano

I work in the technology and transparency space and I am passionate about technology and transparency. And wine. But like anybody who loves something profoundly, I sometimes lose the capacity to think of it with any objectivity. My love goggles have meant that I sometimes preach about a topic, without reflecting on fact.

I may say Internet and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are important for empowering women, but I end there without always giving enough scientific evidence to back myself up. However, hard facts are being collated, and we should be exploring what they mean more rigorously.

What does the research say?

One thing that is clear from working in the technology space is that technology for technology’s sake is pointless. It’s like getting married because you like a party – why commit to an outcome if it doesn’t relate to a substantial need? If we want technology to empower women, the fundamental first step is to figure out how women use technology. Only then can we effectively explore solutions. There is nothing like a good body of research.

And, fortunately, the research is actually there. The obvious truth? Access to ICT is inequitable. The same structures that impair female participation in societal structures do not profoundly differ online.

What I am interested in is what happens once there is access. There are interesting differences across the continent, but focusing on the South African example, there is one particular pattern that I find noteworthy, which I found in the 2012 paper called: “Understanding what is happening in ICT in South Africa” created by ICT Research Africa.

Though ownership of mobile phones is fairly equal, not too surprisingly men have more access to internet-capable phones than women. This results in men using their phones to browse the internet more. And men (40%) use the internet more than women (29%) across apparatus. Men own more laptops, but women own more desktop computers. The ownership of equipment is therefore an obvious thing to consider – with women using computers more than men at home or internet cafes.

What happens when women get access to ICTs

But what I am interested in is – if, we give women access to facilities and the internet, what do they do? To explain I will paraphrase from the research:

  • “Among internet users, there are more males (72%) than females (57%) who first used the internet on a computer, while there are more females (43%) than males (28%) who first used the internet on a mobile phone…
  • [M]ost males (71%) and most females (70.9%) were found to have primarily accessed the internet via the mobile phone in the previous 12 months.
  • More males use the internet at work (45%) and at home (46%) than females (at 38% and 25% respectively).
  • More females access the internet via a commercial internet access facility (36%) and place of education (22%) than male (at 30% and 20% respectively)”.

Though women started using the internet on computers, the vast percentage now access on mobile – this is in comparison to men, whose behaviour hasn’t really changed in the preferred means of access. While there may be a cost consideration, and the pattern follows the uptake of mobile by ‘poorer groups’ because of cost, we would have also expected to see a relative increase in the use for men as well, if this was the sole determinate. Men access the internet more than women at work and at home; this in spite of the fact that we know from earlier women use computers at home more than men (and own more computers at home than men). And women use internet cafes and educational facilities to access the internet than men.

What do these usages demonstrate?

I have a strong theory about this, and that is that women prefer to access the internet in relatively neutral spaces (acknowledging of course that no space is actually neutral from patriarchal structures), removed from the stronger gendered influences of the home and the work place that might observe them or control their behaviour.

Women access the internet where they can engage more equally and more privately. For women, the internet is the new hairdresser – a dominion where engagement can occur free from the power structures that might influence behavior to be more restrained. It must be acknowledged that a lot of what I view as ‘preference’ might in fact be forced by the social expectations that preclude them from being active online at home, but how we can best engage women remains the same: stop thinking about the internet as a home experience.

We need to consider this behavior if we want to create solutions; and we need to figure out how to leverage this behavior to advance access for women. To empower women we need to work with the woman in mind, and work with her mind.

This is linked to my eternal optimism (fuelled by wine); I want to examine individual agency and behaviour and how that can influence the system, because I want to focus on the aspects of our lives that we can be empowered to change. If we want to take over the internet to enhance the lives of women, we must design with the reality of how we seek solace in the ICT space, and figure out how we can enhance that for the betterment of all.

* Thanks to the great work being done by Research ICT Africa team for their pioneering research in the field of internet policy and gender. Their research can be explored here.



Participate: Women24 Female Nation Survey

Women24, South Africa’s biggest female focused website, is inviting women across the country to participate in their latest Female Nation Survey.

Aiming to gain insight into the minds of South African women, the online and mobile-based survey covers a wide range of topics including life, love, sex, politics, finance and relationships. Participants who complete the survey in full, stand the chance to win R3 000.

“We are trying to engage as many women as possible, in order to achieve a truly accurate reflection of the views of an average South African woman,” says Women24 editor, Lili Radloff. “Women are the cornerstone of our nation; therefore, we would like to bring their opinions into light so that they can be represented in the best ways possible.”

With our outlooks shifting on a daily basis, the annual Female Nation Survey asks questions relevant to today, and as a result never fails to uncover fascinating insights.  “We are so excited to meet the South African women of 2014,” says Radloff.

For more information and to complete the survey, visit


Send us your feminist and women’s rights related research

FeministsSA would like to start a research portal for feminist researchers to share their work.

If you have any research you’d like to share with the feminist community, please send it to us in PDF format with your preferred citation and we’ll share it!

Email us!

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