R1.6bn fund to fight GBV but some women’s NGOs haven’t seen a cent

In the 2017/18 financial year‚ the department ring-fenced 550 cases of gender-based violence‚ which included rape and murder.
Image: 123RF/olegdudko

Civil society organisations such as People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) and Masimanyane Women’s Rights International say they have yet to receive any money from the R1.6bn fund the government established last year to combat gender-based violence.

This was raised during an online panel discussion hosted by Sunday Times Live Dialogues on Friday afternoon, sponsored by Brand SA, in which civil society groups, legal experts and activists came together to discuss gender-based violence.

President Cyril Ramaphosa established an interim steering committee in April 2019 to respond to the crisis after the #TotalShutdown march and presidential summit two years ago. This year, they released their national strategic plan.

In September last year, the presidency announced a R1.6bn fund to fight the scourge.

Dr Lesley Anne Foster, executive director of Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, said that much of the money in the fund was disbursed to various government departments to strengthen their fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

About R130m of it was said to have been disbursed to non-governmental organisations. However, she said her organisation had not yet seen any of the money for its programmes.

Mary Makgaba, CEO of POWA, said her organisation, which runs a number of domestic violence shelters in Gauteng, had not seen any money yet either.

According to crime statistics released last week by police minister Bheki Cele, an average of 71 women reported being raped to the police every day, which translated to one every 33 minutes. Asked if the war against gender-based violence and femicide was already lost, Foster said she did not believe it was.

“I think that the continued activism of women and men’s groups across the country has really made a significant contribution. It’s been a long hard struggle, but there have been so many gains. However, we need to strengthen all of our responses, from a political level to the local level, to ensure that violence against women is eradicated,” added Foster.

Makgaba, however, believed gender-based violence was getting worse.

“It’s getting worse, it has actually become a national crisis. We need to do something. We need to take a firm stance to fight gender-based violence, particularly given the perceptions and socialisations when it comes to gender inequality and how men still believe that they are more superior than women in terms of power dynamics,” she said.

“Since we moved into the national lockdown in March, the statistics have been increasing, and we’ve seen that as POWA at our shelters. Given the national strategic plan and framework, I think we need to have an integrated strategy. As civil society we supported and endorsed the plan, however I’m of the view that we need to sit down with government as civil society organisations so that we can be ready to reduce gender-based violence and femicide.

“In the recent statistics published by Crime Stats SA, we’ve noted that the sexual violence cases are very alarming — even though we have a sense of the figures, not every case is reported. Some of our people in rural communities do not report cases due to stigma, unfair treatment, fear, intimidation and lack of trust in the criminal justice system.”

Sarah Mokwebo, board member at the OR Tambo school of leadership, said she believed there was a lack of political will to tackle gender-based violence and femicide.

“People advocate for things that they believe in, so it’s difficult to expect politicians to advocate for the eradication of gender-based violence when, in their personal spaces and political space that they belong to, they don’t lead by example.” Mokwebo added.

Mbuyiselo Botha, commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality, said that the narrative must change.

“We are seeing an upsurge of men’s organisational groups standing up and loudly saying that gender-based violence shouldn’t happen in our name. One could argue that we need a groundswell of men behind the fight,” said Botha.

“A great thing our president has done is centre the conversation around men as a critical aspect because more often than not we tend to direct the conversation at women who are victims. We tell them what not to wear and not to walk at night but the actual problem is men, so we must focus on us,” Botha added.

Brand SA, who collaborated in the event, said that they would like to urge all perpetrators of violence against women and children, to be part of a solution and help curb gender-based violence.

Speaking for Brand SA, Tshepo Matseba said: “Brand SA is responsible for managing the image and reputation of SA domestically and internationally. Its mandate is to ensure that the country is positioned positively to attract inward investment and tourism in order to contribute to poverty alleviation and economic growth.

“Domestically this means the promotion of an active citizenry, nation building and social cohesion. When citizens are united against a common enemy, it contributes to positive change.” Matseba added.

BY SISANDA ALUTA MBOLEKWA

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