SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

24 March 2014

South Africa: Call Centre a Lifeline for Women

The Department of Social Development will on Tuesday launch a 24-hour call centre to provide support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence.

The toll free number to call in order to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV). Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone.

The Command Centre will be symbolically launched soon after Human Rights Day, commemorated in South Africa annually on March 21.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends in South Africa.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) further reports 175 880 crimes against women and 66 387 sexual offences were committed in 2012/13.

These are the shocking statistics, which prompted the department, in partnership with Vodacom Foundation to pilot a 24-hour call centre dedicated to provide support and counselling to victims of gender based violence. The Command Centre will allow social worker agents to provide telephonic support and counselling and can direct the victim's case to a social worker in the pilot areas.

The pilot areas are in Gauteng (Hillbrow, Moroka, Sunnyside, Akasia, Alexandra) and KwaZulu-Natal (Edendale and Inanda).

Vodacom has invested R4.2 million for a period of six months to help cover the cost of the information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and expertise to customise the call centre for the purpose of handling calls from victims of gender based violence.

Social workers in the pilot districts have been provided with training on the GBV Command Centre system and cell phones to provide feedback on the cases directed to them for support and resolution.

The Command Centre is working in collaboration with the SAPS, allowing calls to receive priority and be escalated to a police station nearest to them where necessary.

In addition to providing immediate intervention for victims of gender based violence, the Command Centre will also assist in the prosecution of perpetrators as information collected throughout the intervention process by all role players can be made available to the courts as evidence.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said that the Command Centre is aimed at making the department as responsive as possible to gender based violence.

"Additional functionality available to the department on a real time basis includes strategic reporting, which will highlight trends in specific locations or types of violence occurring, as well as an indication of demand for social workers in a specific district," Minister Dlamini said.

She added that future collaboration and information sharing with other government departments will also improve with the efficient handling of cases and the support required by victims via the Command Centre.

This project emanates from the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Gender Based Violence and was committed to by Minister Dlamini during her 2013 Budget Vote.

It also forms part of service delivery improvements being implemented by the department through Project Mikondzo - a service delivery improvement strategy that seeks to roll out speedier and more innovative methods of meeting community needs.

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