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


Violent Politicians are #NotOurLeaders



24 November 2017 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

#NotOurLeaders Campaign launched by Women and Democracy Initiative, Lawyers for Human Rights and gender violence specialist during 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women

Tomorrow, 25 November, marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Activities led by government emphasise the importance of taking action to end gender-based violence but do political parties walk the talk?

Mduduzi Manana has resigned from his position as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training and been convicted and sentenced for committing assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. But he is neither the first nor the only political representative to behave violently towards women. During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Lawyers for Human Rights, and gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten turn the spotlight on political representatives and the protectors and keepers who enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. Each day the group will release the name and facts of a different case of a leader embroiled in sexual abuse charges. The aim is to reflect both on the incidents themselves, as well as the responses of the political parties to which these men belong, their actions proving a litmus test of their true commitment to addressing sexual violence.

South Africa’s political representatives are the guardians of the Constitution and rights it contains, including the right to gender equality and the right to be free from all forms of violence, whether from public or private sources. It is their responsibility to develop laws that advance these rights, hold government departments to account for their (in)action in this regard, and approve budgets that make these rights realities. But political representatives’ ability to improve women and men’s lives is compromised when they appoint abusive men to positions of power.

“Political parties that appoint these men, then fail to act against them, or protect them, are hypocritical. Over the next 16 days, we will hear a lot of public condemnation of violence against women and children from various leaders, but this campaign turns the focus on what politicians and parties actually do, not what they say,” said Sanja Bornman of the Lawyers for Human Rights’ Gender Equality programme. Parties undermine efforts to address gendered forms of violence when they fail to develop systems and procedures addressing sexual violence, or fail to put their policies and procedures into effect. They also hamper South Africa’s efforts to meet Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Target 5.5 of this goal is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” Yet women’s political participation and representation is undermined in environments where sexual violence and abuse go unchecked.

Says Lisa Vetten: “These problems are not new and if they are allowed to persist there is a risk they will become permanent features of our political landscape. As the country currently debates the quality of its political representatives this dimension of their conduct should not be overlooked.”

The individuals we will be focusing on are #NotOurLeaders and we demand that political structures act decisively and urgently to tackle the problems we will be highlighting during the 16 Days.

For queries:

  • Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
  • Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
  • Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933

A tragic tale of child abuse or just another police crime statistic?

Claudia Lopes
Claudia Lopes

By Claudia Lopes

Three years ago, a 6 week old baby girl, Jamie Naidoo, was saved from the brink of what could potentially have been a life of sexual servitude. While the odds that Jamie would lead a better life increased, after her father’s attempts at selling her to a man for R100 were foiled by the Durban Metro Police, this idealist hope was cruelly extinguished last week Thursday when her lifeless body was found at the home of her grandmother. Jamie had been tortured, raped and beaten to death. Her mother and grandmother have since been taken into custody. The Child Welfare Centre in Chatsworth, a non-profit organization which had placed this young girl in the care of these family members following a court order, had on previous visits with the family found no evidence of Jamie being mistreated. But surely somewhere along the line the system failed her, even if perhaps it started just as soon as the judicial system thought it prudent to return her to her family.

As we head into another 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children one ponders what impact this annual campaign really has. While the 2013/2014 police crime statistics released earlier this year boasts a decrease of reported cases of sexual offences and rape, extracting any form of meaningful information on the rates of domestic violence is not as evident. The police, although expected to record this information, do not release this data but instead assign domestic violence cases to other categories of crimes i.e. common assault, assault with the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm, attempted murder and murder. Of these categories, murder was found to have increased by 3.5 %.

Whether the statistics reflect a decrease or an increase, the reality is that there is not a single day that goes by without one being confronted, in one way or another, by tales of a mistreated child or a young girl being gang raped; of a woman being killed by her intimate partner or a grandmother being physically and sexually assaulted. The loss experienced by each and every one of these victims, be it the loss of a life or the loss of one’s dignity and sense of safety and self-worth, is one loss too many.

The Chatsworth based Child Welfare Centre which had managed Jamie’s case reports that it deals with at least 5000 cases on an annual basis and due to lack of resources the organization is only able to employ 10 social workers to carry this workload. Let’s unpack what this really means: a case load of 5000 at a rate of 10 social workers equates to each social worker having an annual caseload of 500 or about 42 cases on a monthly basis. If one supposes that each social worker works a standard working week, i.e. 20 days a month, then he or she needs to provide practical and social support, care and/or supervision to at least two children a day – a situation far less than ideal and one which is untenable considering that a social workers job entails far more than attending to children.

The Welfare Centre is however not alone in this predicament. Most non-profit organizations are ill-funded, understaffed and overworked. Take shelters for abused women for instance, in 2012 and 2013, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre undertook two provincial studies on shelters, one in Gauteng and the other in the Western Cape. Both studies revealed that shelters were significantly underfunded by the Department of Social Development. Not only was it a daily struggle to cover their financial short-falls but they were also not able to deliver the full bouquet of services that they needed to provide. The demand for shelter services was also far greater than they could meet. Although funding post these studies have increased quite positively, it remains insufficient. St. Anne’s Homes and Sisters Incorporated for example, two established and well-respected shelters in Cape Town, record that they are forced on average to turn away 40 women and their children every month due to space and financial restrictions, reinforcing yet again that South Africa has a significant problem of violence against women on its hands.

Although we all need to take responsibility to prevent violence against women and children, it is also the government’s duty to ensure that its citizens are safe and thus logically the state should be ensuring that organizations which provide social welfare services on behalf of the state (as this essentially should be government’s responsibility) are given adequate financial resources and support. Government pleads poverty when challenged to provide these resources yet there is not a year that has gone by that we have not heard about the maladministration of funds by this or that government department.

The year ahead looks bleak. The gradual dissolution of the National Gender Based Violence Council (which never really took off although it has cost thousands of Rands to establish) and recent shocking patriarchal and anti-feminist rhetoric at the launch of the new Ministry for Women’s 16 Days of Activism campaign, some serious questions need to be raised. One key question that comes to mind is what is government’s thinking on these issues and does it really deem addressing violence against women and children a political priority? With the 16 Days of Activism on the agenda for the next two weeks, one wonders how many resources government will be pumping into sporadic events across the country and what meaningful impact this will really have on the lives of children like Jamie, in the long-term. For Jamie though, it is sadly too late, she is now just another number on next year’s crime scorecard.

Claudia Lopes is a Programme Manager at the Heinrich Böll Foundation specializing in women’s rights activism, with a particular focus on violence against women.


ANC Manifesto: Unsurprisingly unfeminist


Shehnaz Cassim-Moosa
Shehnaz Cassim-Moosa
Athambile Masola
Athambile Masola

By Shehnaz Cassim-Moosa and Athambile Masola

The ANC manifesto was launched in January 2014. There is nothing in the 2014 manifesto that is remarkably different to what has come before. The ANC has recommitted itself to implementing the National Development Plan and as can be expected in such an unequal country, the economy and job creation is at the heart of the manifesto.

Gender equality gets a neat paragraph in the manifesto but again there is nothing new or startling:

In democratic South Africa, women’s voices are heard and women’s issues are seriously addressed. Institutional mechanisms have been established to protect women’s rights and dignity. Progress has been made in freeing women from customs and practices that undermine their rights. Progress in meeting basic needs such as housing and access to water has especially benefited women, redressing past inequalities. More girls are in school and tertiary institutions than ever before and more women are in employment. Women continue to benefit from economic empowerment programmes and they are the major recipients of social security programmes.

Without this paragraph in the manifesto we would have had to concede that the ANC is not interested in women. It would seem that the ANC has adopted an approach of gender mainstreaming, and as such do not address the women as a constituency directly. Gender mainstreaming thus has had the strange effect of making the party gender-blind.

Jobs are an issue for women as much as they are for men yet women are not clearly identified as a category that warrants particular attention. This is despite the fact that unemployment levels are higher for women than they are for men according to the Quarterly Labour Force Surveys over the last four quarters. Skills development is central to women’s lives therefore one can argue that the ANC is concerned about women’s lives by making jobs central to its manifesto. Though South Africa has very progressive legislation on equal pay, a report by the world economic forum, gender gap, reveals that women earn less than men in South Africa. In fact, stats released on FeministsSA this month point to the fact that the average female-headed household in 2011 earned only slightly more than the average male-headed household did in 2001.

This is one among a number of issues that are of concern to women. Gender based violence, is another issue which is addressed by a mention of domestic violence in their section on fighting crime. They suggest that the ANC will

“continue to prioritise incidents of domestic violence and crimes against women and children by further strengthening the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit and pursuing a multi-disciplinary approach in our fight against violence against women and children.”

The suggestion that an ANC-led government has prioritized domestic violence is debatable given the fact that incidents of non-compliance with the Domestic Violence Act are rarely addressed, that no statistics on domestic violence are reported on by the SAPS despite the requirement that each incident is recorded in a domestic violence register, and despite the fact that the state has continued to dis-invest in domestic violence shelters with the result that many women who leave violent relationships have nowhere else to go.

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) marched in Pretoria to commemorate the death of Reeva Steenkamp a few months ago. This was a rare public event for the ANCWL. Even skeptics would be forgiven for labeling the march as nothing more than a publicity stunt during an election year. The ANCWL did not take to the streets when the teenager Anene Booysen was brutally raped and murdered, though they did launch a campaign in her name. The ANCWL joining forces with the National Youth Development Agency on the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians  was one way to mark this challenge. Another, more effective way might have been placing pressure on the Department of Justice to push forward with the National Task Team on LGBTI  violence, or pinpointing the failings in the judicial system. An even more effective one would have been lobbying for better budgeting for women-orientated services. Marching to commemorate the death of celebrity, doesn’t seem genuine given what the crime means in the broader context.

Before the candidate list was revealed there was a briefing flagging the deployment of women in the party and that the list would have 50/50 gender parity. This is expected because as we revealed in our previous analysis, you cannot fault the ANC on paper when it comes to the gender parity issue. Upon release of the list in March, there was little mention about the gender question in the party but rather a focus on the factions in the ANC. The list became about “who of the Zuma-camp have remained?”. The power struggle within the ANC dominated the candidate list of the party.

There were certain women in the party who declined nomination (for example Dr Nkosazana Zuma because of her post with the AU) and placed on the reserve list. While listening to Jesse Duarte on SAfm on the day the list was released it was clear that the process of choosing the list is a complex one that goes through various levels of the party structures (regional, provincial and national) and because of the politics involved at all these levels, it seems that the most important point of contention is factionalism rather than gender parity on the list.

The idea of representation and inclusion is central to the life a democracy. Women make up an estimated 51% of the population, and although women are divided along class and racial lines, the opinions and concerns of women should reverberate at different levels of government, business and civil society. In fact, as of 2013, more women than men were registered to vote.

An important question to unpack is, “are women’s voices really heard within the ruling party.” If we look at the face of the ANC it manages to escape looking like a boys club because people like Naledi Pandor, Bathabile Dlamini, Lindiwe Sisulu, Angie Motshekga, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula, Thoko Didiza and Baleka Mbete form the top twenty of the list and Jesse Duarte often speaks on behalf of the ANC. But if one looks closely at the content of what is said, Gwede Mantashe and Cyril Ramaphosa dominate discussion on “issues that matter”. Yes, their positions grant them the honour of being the “face of the ANC” but if the voice of the party is represented in a male body every time it engages with the public on policy issues, should we not be concerned about the women in the party?

There are only three women in the top ten of the ANC list. Naledi Pandor, Bathabile Dlamini, and Lindiwe Sisulu.

When the ANCWL said the ANC was not ready for a female president, women in the party were defensive. There were no dissenting voices, either from the ANC or the ANCWL. This speaks volumes about the future of women in the party. The discourse in the ANC remains masculine and a benevolent patriarchy runs the show; a patriarchy that can say it takes the leadership of women seriously but remains to have men leading the conversation on behalf of the party. This is not a manifesto issue but rather an issue of the culture of the ANC that we should bear in mind when dealing with the ANC.

Men have quite often dominated liberation movements throughout the world, in part because at the time many of these movements came into being, traditional gender roles inhibited women from participating in politics and secondly because of the nature of resistance which at times were violent, men were often more involved in the overthrow of colonial regimes. This has spilled over into a democratic era, where men continue to dominate the political landscape. This is certainly the case with the ANC and it will take a collective and coordinated effort to address this within the ruling party.

Jen Thorpe

How much does violence against women cost the South African Government?

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

If you live in South Africa, watch the news or social media, or listen to the radio you’ll be aware that violence against women is common. You might also know that in the last five years around 60 000 rapes have been reported each year (that’s each year, not over five years). You could know that estimates vary but that statistically most women do not report a rape against them. You might know that most sexual offences committed against women are committed by someone they know, and that one in four men in South Africa has admitted to raping someone he knows.

When it comes to domestic violence you probably know a bit less. This might be because the South African police services do not report on domestic violence statistics annually, because ‘domestic violence’ is technically not a crime. Why technically? Well, because it depends on what type of violence that is, and it’s up to the police to record it as an incident of ‘domestic violence’. This means that sometimes it’s recorded as assault, assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, murder, etc. So, when the police report on these crimes against women (if they disaggregate their data at all) they don’t report how many of them were related to domestic violence. One figure we do have (you’ll see them in these interesting research reports at the bottom of this blog) is that over 200 000 new incidents of domestic violence were reported in 2011. That’s new and reported.

Suffice to say that we have a significant problem of intimate partner violence and violence against women in general in South Africa. There are two main laws which govern these types of violence – the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 and the Sexual Offences Act 32 of 2007. These laws define the crimes, prescribe the role of various Government Departments, and make requirements on those Departments to provide particular levels of services. What these laws (and others that affect women’s rights to safety, housing etc) don’t do, is require Government Departments to budget together. This means that each Department (that’s the South African Police Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and the Department of Social Development) has to try and estimate the scale of the problem, and ask for money to do their bit, separately and in a way that is not connected to working with other Departments or ensuring that victims of violence against women get the best and least traumatising service. Add to the fact that when the scale of the problem is so massive, these services are not going to come cheap.

Yes. I find it as strange as you do. When laws require Departments to work together in implementing them and don’t make sure each Department has enough budget to do so, they are essentially setting themselves up for failure. Even more importantly, when laws don’t make exactly clear what each Department has to do, it is really very seriously tremendously (do you get my point) unlikely that Departments will altrustically go on spending sprees to make sure those services are available.

At a research recent seminar three papers were produced on Government spending in relation to gender-based violence. Two of these looked at specific departments – the South African Police Services and the Department of Justice – and asked Departments to report on exactly what they were spending. The other tried to consider Government spending as a whole. This was almost impossible for a number of reasons:

  • Government Departments do not budget specifically for violence against women services;
  • Not all Government Departments provided information to Parliament on their spending when requested to do so;
  • Sometimes Departments simply did not know how much they spent because they included some services in general budgets.

Nevertheless, the third paper reached an estimate of Government spending at at least R311 051 687 in the 2013/2014 financial year alone. This excluded the costs of the Department of Health and Social Development who did not report. It also excluded the costs of the Department of Correctional Services (who had not yet been asked on their spending on the perpetrators imprisoned for violence against women), the Departments of Education and Communication who should be responsible for awareness raising and preventing violence in schoools, or the Department of Community Safety.

Violence against women is thus significantly costly for the Government. Urgent prevention programmes and responses are required to ensure that equal spending is invested in prevention as is spent on the response. Critically, Government needs to begin to consider how it could budget more holistically to ensure that services are standardised, and that each and every victim of violence regains her right to safety.

What’s important though is that the highest cost is obviously borne by the victim of violence. It is borne by those who survive it, and those who do not. It is also borne by those young South Africans trapped watching their family members inflicting violence against one another, and learning that this is the way that things are resolved. These costs have not even begun to be measured but it is certain that they will be very high.

To read the research reports, click the links below:

Lorenzo Wakefield: SAPS and planning for gender-based violence, an update

Joy Watson: The cost of justice in South Africa

Jen Thorpe: The 2013/2014 financial year estimates for spending on gender-based violence by the South African Government