Safety at shelters highlighted at protest

2019-08-06 06:00
Protesters say shelters should be supported by government equally.

Protesters say shelters should be supported by government equally.

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In an effort to get the government’s attention and to tend to safety concerns of shelters in the province, Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCWSM) marched to parliament on Tuesday 23 July.

They handed over a memorandum of demands to the national minister of Department of Social Development (DSD), Lindiwe Zulu, highlighting the need for funds to improve the state of shelters for abused women in the province.

The physical structures and the livelihoods of those who work in the shelters need a financial boost.

The movement works hand-in-hand with National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM), which has one mission; to advocate for rights of shelter workers and to fight for recognition of the work shelters do.

The WCWSM’s plan to pay the parliament a visit was inevitable but the release of a report by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) gave them more impetus. The report is titled “Investigative Report: State of Shelters in South Africa”.

In a statement, the WCWSM said the report confirmed that shelters provided critical services to abused women, but that the movement had been unfairly treated by the national government when it came to financial support.

“(Our efforts) are severely hampered as a result of chronic under-funding and highly variable subsidies provided by provincial DSD for shelters across the country,” the statement read.

The protest was joined by residents from Lansdowne, Manenberg and Ottery.

Joy Lange, an executive member of NSM, was one of the protesters who braved the weather. She said the aim was for them as shack workers and managers to stand together and be a united voice.

She said Zulu accepted their memorandum in which they detailed different demands and due dates.

“She promised to look at our demands and to find integrated ways with relevant departments to play an integral role in finding solutions,” explained Lange.

One of their demands to the national government was for it to create a balanced method of treating shelters. They are referring to government-managed shelters and non-governmental organisation (NPO) managed shelters.

They alleged that there was an imbalance in terms of resources and payments.

Their demands also included a shelter manager for each shelter, a social worker for each shelter, three house mothers for each shelter and an administrator for each shelter.

Lange said funds were dwindling as the businesses that usually sponsored them were closing down.

Also present at the protest was Bernadine Bachar, chairperson of WCWSM and director of Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.

Bachar said they needed the DSD and national treasury to urgently address the gaps within the shelter funding structure and for it to be done uniformly.

“It does not make sense that in one province, shelters get as little as R9 per person, per day to meet the needs of women residing at shelters, while in another province shelters get up to R71. And, of course, without enough funds, shelters are unable to offer the programmes that survivors of abuse need to heal and move forward,” she said.

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