South Africa: Shelters for Abused Women Protest Outside Parliament

More funds needed to implement the recommendations of the Commission for Gender Equality

Women and men braced the rainy weather to protest in front of Parliament on Tuesday over the lack of funding for shelters for abused women in South Africa.

A crowd of about 40 people chanted "Enough is enough" and "No more abuse". Passing cars hooted in support.

The protest was organised by the Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement (WCWSM) in collaboration with the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM). Representatives from 17 shelters in the Western Cape and from several others around the country attended the protest.

While a National Assembly plenary session considered the national budget, protesters outside urged the Department of Social Development and the National Treasury to provide sufficient funding for shelters around the country.

A memorandum called for the government to release the funding needed to carry out the recommendations made in the Commission for Gender Equality's Investigative Report on the State of Shelters in South Africa of 2014.

This report concluded that shelters for victims of gender-based violence are not only underfunded but also that the funding varies across organisations.

The protesters want a standardised funding model to ensure a quality service at shelters, and that shelter workers be paid the national minimum wage.

Last year, GroundUp reported on the funding challenges shelters face.

Bernardine Bachar, chairperson of the WCWSM and director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said that the lack of adequate funding jeopardised the security and infrastructure of many shelters.

Bernadette Simpson from Sisters Incorporated, a shelter for women and children in Kenilworth, said that 30% of their budget comes from the government.

According to Dorothea Gertse, shelter manager for the Saartjie Baartman Centre, 40% of the organisation's annual budget is funded by government. They want to be fully funded.

The New World Foundation in Lavender Hill gets no government funding, according to Rita Witbooi, a counsellor and advisor at the shelter. The foundation offers drug tests as well as counselling for both men and women. They are looking to get "any percent [the government] can afford to give" said Witbooi.

Rose Bailey from Ethembeni in the Eastern Cape said that although the organisation gets all its funding from government, this only covers the basics.

Protestors handed out purple ribbons to promote gender-based violence awareness. As the rain poured down, protestors huddled together under black umbrellas, singing.

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