— 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