You’ve read the stories and sympathised with loved ones’ pain. You might’ve added your voice to the outrage on social media or joined a mass march calling for an end to the scourge. Yet you may still feel helpless.
Gender-based violence in South Africa is happening on such a large scale that it can seem like there’s nothing you can do, no matter how strongly you feel about it. But don’t despair: there are ways you can do your bit. The smallest act can go a long way to help people in need.
VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME AND GOODS
There are many organisations around the country offering help to women in need. We rounded up a few in SA’s major cities. To find one in your area, ask at your local police station, church or municipal office.
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) was the first organisation to establish a women’s shelter back in 1981. It has branches in Berea, Evaton, Katlehong, Soweto, Tembisa, and Vosloorus, where victims can seek advice and support. Volunteers are recruited to help make women aware of their rights and educate men and communities to rally together against gender-based violence.
Jeanette Sera, counselling services manager at Powa, says they regularly hosts volunteers who assist in renovating its offices and shelters. They paint, revamp or garden. Powa follows a strict selection process.
“We keep our shelters confidential for the safety of women there so we limit the number of people accessing them,” Sera explains. For those keen to donate, a list of items is up on its website, powa.co.za. This includes women’s clothing and shoes, self-help books and active wear (for self-defence classes).
She says assistance from corporates looking to make a difference are always welcome. They sometimes provide a morale booster for the women by taking them for a picnic, pampering or lunch.
The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children (SBCWC) opened in 1999 in response to the high rates of sexual and domestic violence against women and children in the Cape Flats. Volunteers are welcome to assist the 120 women and children there, says advocate Bernadine Bachar, director of SBCWC. To volunteer, submit an application form, which can be found at saartjiebaartmancentre.org.za.
Donors can sponsor a woman for her stay at the centre, which is R1 000 a month, usually for around four months. The shelter in Manenberg accepts donations of non-perishable food, uniforms and stationery for kids and nappies, formula and porridge for babies. “Cash donations towards operational costs can be made through the Snapscan function on our website,” Bachar adds.
Cape Town-based Ons Plek was the first in SA to offer shelter to girls living on the streets. It houses 35 girls in care centres around the city, aimed at helping them develop the confidence and skills needed to make a fresh start. There’s a donations wishlist on the website (onsplek.org.za), which includes basic groceries such as sugar, maize meal and coffee, toiletries, sports equipment and stationery.
Financial donations can be made via Payfast by clicking the link on the website. Ons Plek offers a year-long internship to social work, education or occupational therapy students.
Applicants are assessed after submitting a CV, a police clearance form and additional documents stipulated on the website. The centre also welcomes volunteers.
The Durban Hospice for Women provides a haven for abused and destitute women. Launched in 1951 under the auspices of the Rectors of the St Paul’s and St Cyprian’s Anglican parishes, the non-profit organisation (NPO) provides accommodation for up to 17 mothers and kids, three meals a day, skills training and counselling by resident social workers.
Its popular One in a Thousand initiative sees 1 000 people donate a minimum of R100 a year. See more at kerrhouse.co.za.
JOIN FORCES WITH YOUR WARD COUNCILLOR
Angus Mckenzie, a ward councillor in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town, urges people to work with their representatives to fight gender-based violence. He says ward councillors have a duty to listen to the concerns of residents in the communities they serve. “I’m in constant communication with my community. My private number is available to all 85 000 residents,” he says.
Working with community leaders, he’s implemented various programmes aimed at keeping women and children safe. One such initiative is Women for Change, which sees mothers volunteering to walk kids to school, spend time with them during breaks and help with after-school programmes.
Candice James, councillor of Ward 93 in Johannesburg, launched a Victim Empowerment Centre at every police station in her ward. The centre has social workers on hand to provide trauma counselling relating to anything from a car accident to rape or murder.
She urges people to approach their councillors with ideas for similar programmes if they have none. “If we want something done, we all need to put in the effort,” James says. “The more people involved, the more connected we become and the bigger difference we can make.”
LAUNCH YOUR OWN INITIATIVE
Many established companies such as FoodForward South Africa and Shoprite Holdings Ltd are dedicated to funding NPOs and causes working to improve communities.
Shoprite requires an online form to be filled in and submitted. Proposals are to be sent six to eight weeks prior to an event. Only those meeting their guidelines and objectives will be considered for funding.
Cheryl Harper heads We Can Change Our World (wecanchange.co.za), an online portal connecting corporates with organisations dedicated to social transformation. Companies and NPOs post free listings on the site.
Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (Cafsa) runs a database featuring more than 500 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) . Each NGO is independently reviewed. Then based on the needs of donors and organisations, Cafsa (cafsouthernafrica. org) facilitates funding partnerships.