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Shelters as sanctuaries for GBV victims remain severely underfunded, organisations say

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, hit by the reality of shelter underfunding by the government, is seeking to raise R650 000, 00 during the 16 days of activism to ensure the sustainability of the Centre. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, hit by the reality of shelter underfunding by the government, is seeking to raise R650 000, 00 during the 16 days of activism to ensure the sustainability of the Centre. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 30, 2021

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Cape Town - Non-profit organisations offering sanctuary to victims of gender-based violence (GBV) say that while the scourge remains one of the biggest human rights violations in the country, there are too few shelters and those available remain severely underfunded and under-supported.

This as the largest privately run shelter, Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, affected by government under-funding, is seeking to raise R650 000 during the 16 Days of Activism period to ensure its sustainability.

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Up to 39% of the centre’s annual budget is funded by the Department of Social Development, with a yearly deficit of R6 million, while St Anne’s Homes has an annual R3m deficit.

The National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA), which represents nearly 100 shelters, recently called for the government and corporate decision-makers to recognise the valuable role that shelters play in disrupting the GBV pandemic.

Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement chairperson Bernadine Bacra said little had changed in the two years after the Commission for Gender Equality’s investigation into the state of shelters in South Africa, which found that the majority of shelters were chronically under-funded by government departments.

Bacra said that with Covid-19, shelters were experiencing a significant increase in their basic operating costs, which she said had stretched many to breaking point.

“The government’s responsibility to provide sheltering services is recognised in the Domestic Violence Act, and the provision of shelter services also forms an integral part of the National Policy Guidelines for Victim Empowerment.

“When considering the fact that the NSMSA, the Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement and individual shelters have been highlighting this challenge for years and that little has changed, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that adequate and meaningful funding by the government for the organisations that often perform the work of their departments is simply not a priority,” said Bacra.

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St Anne’s Homes executive director Joy Lange said shelters offered more than the government was able to fund.

She said while more funding was needed, other key government departments could make a contribution in fast-tracking services provided to victims who might need mental health support, housing or documentation.

“If it wasn’t for these private donors the situation in our shelters would be dir e and we would not be able to offer the quality care and support the victims desperately need,” she said.

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Lange said they wanted the government to acknowledge and recognise the work the shelters were doing.

Fernandez’s spokesperson Joshua Chigome said the department was currently funding 25 shelters for the victims of violence and abuse in the province and that this was determined through a means test and via a call for funding progress which took place on a three-year cycle.

Chigome said South Africa was in an economic recession that had limited the government’s capacity to expand across all service delivery areas.

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He said six shelters had been established in the province this year, and the decision whether more shelters would be established over the short term still needed to be reviewed.

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Cape Argus

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