In 2020, the National Shelter Movement (NSM) reported that shelters set up to protect women and children who have survived gender-based violence are operating at limited capacity due to delays in payment of funds from the Department of Social Development (DSD).
There has been little improvement since.
The Shelter Indaba 2021 organized by the National Shelter Movement (NSM) earlier this month explored the reality of South Africa’s three tier shelter system. The event took place ahead of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Violence Against Women and Children, which kicks off today (25 November 2021).
Not enough shelter
“It is also our experience, corroborated by the evidence, that there are not enough shelters for victims of GBV. Those that are available are severely underfunded and underfunded. This is particularly troubling considering that violence against women and children remains one of the most widespread human rights violations in South Africa. However, not enough importance is given to supporting these shelters to which survivors escape, ”noted the NSM.
NSM is the umbrella organization representing over 100 shelters for abuse survivors across South Africa. It provides a united voice on the shelter for abused women and their children.
The green door brings hope
Ramapulane, affectionately known as “Brown” Lekekela, opened her home to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in her community in 2013. This safe space has become the Green Door.
After working as a volunteer counselor at Dieplsloot Police Station in 2011, Ramapulane noticed that many women’s efforts to report a crime ended in the streets because many of them did not make it to the city safely. police station.
“When I interviewed survivors at the station, I found that many incidents were influenced by alcohol abuse and that women changed their mind about reporting an abusive partner when they were sober the morning. Some women did not succeed because they were attacked by the abuser or other criminals along the way. I opened Green Door because I wanted a place that could be within the community, where women could go, ”said Lekekela.
# 16DaysofActivism2021 16 Days of ‘Activism Against Gender Based Violence’ is an opportunity to raise awareness and ensure that the community knows that there is support available to them. # 16days pic.twitter.com/A4Hyop6Qzs
– Women’s Inclusive Team (@WomenInclusive) November 24, 2021
Green Door currently has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen area for survivors.
“I have no room to keep survivors here for a long stay. When a survivor needs a longer stay, I refer her to a shelter called iKhaya Letemba. Here they can stay for up to six months, depending on the case, ”Ramapulane said.
Helping victims of GBV his passion
Ramapulane said he opened his house because his passion was to help women and children who have survived gender-based violence.
It organizes workshops and activity sessions to educate community members about the different forms of GBV. The goal is to help men unlearn cultural behaviors that contribute to violence.
“The lack of funding affects us a lot because there is nothing we can do. We do not receive any financial support from the government or the DSD. Even after several attempts to apply, we received no help. We rely on funders from regions like the United States and other members of the public. This is how we manage to pay for food to eat, gasoline to go to the police station and attend the trials. When some women come here, they don’t wear masks and I don’t have extra masks for them, which exposes me and my family, ”Ramapulane said.
He said he would continue to reach out to donors and people willing to help the shelter support women and their children. He plans to continue renovating the house to make more space for the women to stay there.
Breaking the Cycle: The Village Safe Haven
“I have children who were left behind in shebeens, left in hospital, brought in by mothers scared of the abuse at home and some who just couldn’t cope anymore. We also have serious cases of abuse of children who are brought in by social services, ”said Susan Harris.
Harris has been running the Village Safe Haven foster home, along with her husband, for 16 years.
The village refuge is a group foster home for children who live without their parents and those who live in abusive and neglectful environments.
“Violence affects children’s development and their well-being. Some come here and are completely withdrawn and scared. I had a child who hid whenever a certain car pulled up in front of the gate. The first time it happened I just saw him run and we couldn’t find him for almost a whole day. We later found out that the child mistook the person who got out of the car for the same person who treated him so badly.
The foster home accommodated fifteen children, aged 1 to 16, at the time of Health-e News’ visit. Harris and her husband got involved voluntarily through the church, and within three months they were running the facility all the time.
Get to the root of the problem
“The trauma of child abuse translates into cases of violence. Other children begin to physically abuse other children upon arrival. All benefit from mentoring and, if necessary, advice. Getting to the root of what children have been through and what they remember, and following that with love and care, has the ability to break the cycle of violence, ”she said.
Harris relies on foster care grants and donations from churches and members of the public to operate the facility.
“We don’t get grants for all of our children. It becomes a challenge when it comes to paying for their medical and health needs. Electricity also costs thousands of Rand. In some schools we have an agreement to pay a reduced amount of tuition. We try to make sure we send them to school in uniform and stationery that keeps them on par with their peers. We make crowdfunding to make small celebrations for their birthdays. “
Harris said there were “not enough” shelters for women and children.
“There seems to be a huge need for women with children. I receive calls daily for places for mothers and children. The pity is that very often the mother has to be separated from her children because of this. It’s very sad.”
“I found peace in my new home”
“I call this place my home. Here I have received peace. My story was meaningful to the people here and each of them was able to help me. I am empowered. I came here with little skill, and now I’m equipped with computer skills and other hands-on work with my hands. Social workers and counselors are here with me, and I have been fortunate to get the support I need, ”said Millicent Makgoshi Ramoshi.
Ramoshi had been living in a refuge in Gauteng for three months when she spoke to Health-e News journalists about his experience. She arrived at the shelter with her child after the emotional and psychological abuse she suffered from her ex-partner led her to hospitalization.
“I had a condition called peripheral neuropathy which made my left side weak and sore. When I entered the relationship, my ex-partner used my condition to blackmail me emotionally and make me lose confidence. He made me feel like I wasn’t a woman enough because I couldn’t do household chores like cooking and being intimate when he expected me to be. I found myself begging him to forgive me even when he was cheating on me. He made me believe that I must be sorry for the way he treated me.
Affected physical well-being
The relationship began in March 2021 during lockdown. Ramoshi said the emotional and psychological abuse she endured affected her physical body. After several hospital visits, she was later diagnosed with conversion disorder.
“At first, the doctors misdiagnosed me and said I had rheumatoid arthritis because of the pain in my joints. I was also slowly losing the ability to feel my legs and to walk. It was when the neurologist made me sit down and asked me what was going on at home that they arrived at the diagnosis. They explained to me that my mind was under such emotional stress that my organs craved attention in other ways. That’s when I was advised to ask for help and leave, ”Ramoshi said.
Ramoshi regained his strength in his arms and legs and was able to walk within two weeks of arriving at the shelter. She has learned to love herself again and to help her child adjust.
“They’ve taught us to notice and respond easily to physical abuse and pain, but there is a slow death that comes with emotional and psychological abuse. I encourage all women who need help to find a shelter closest to them for help. And if this one is full, go to the next one. Don’t stop, because help is available at facilities like this, ”she said.
Ramoshi is currently looking for a job because his stay at the shelter has ended. She wishes there was more support for women like her to continue to rebuild their lives.
Lack of funding for women’s shelters
Former Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu explained why shelters are struggling.
Although one of our functions is to connect shelters with sponsors, many shelters still depend primarily on the financial support they receive from DSD. This helps them run their programs and ensures that their facilities are in place and maintained. This means that some shelters run out of jobs as counselors and mental health services when needed, ”Shabangu said.
She confirmed that there are still a number of shelters that lack basic health services and are overcrowded. There are also those “who simply cannot perform the tasks and provide the services required by the survivors because of these problems.”
According to NSM, five shelters for abused women in the Eastern Cape Province said they had faced funding delays for several years. As a result, they have had to deal with staff resignations, increased loan costs to cover late payments, and reduced funding because DSD refuses to accept backdated receipts once funding has been disbursed.
NSM chief executive Dr Zabeda Dangor said most people don’t fully appreciate what shelters do. This includes government and policy makers who do not understand how shelters operate and what they need to fulfill their mandates. – Health-e News