YOU'VE read the stories and sympathised with loved ones’ pain. You might have added your voice to the outrage on social media or joined a mass march calling for an end to the scourge.
And yet you still feel helpless. Genderbased violence in South Africa can seem so overwhelming and is happening on such a large scale that you feel you can’t do anything, no matter how strongly you feel about it.
But don’t despair: there are ways ordinary people can step forward to make a difference. Even the smallest effort can go a long way to help people in need.
There are many organisations around the country running programmes for women in need. We rounded up a few in SA’s major cities but if you want 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 shelter for women back in 1981. It has branches in Everton, Soweto, Katlehong, Tembisa, Berea 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 mobilise their support against gender-based violence.
Jeanette Sera, counselling services manager at Powa, says the organisation regularly hosts a group of volunteers who assist in renovating its offices and shelters. They paint, revamp or garden.
But Powa follows a strict volunteer selection process. “We keep our shelters confidential for the safety of women accommodated [there], therefore we limit the number of people accessing them,” Sera says.
For those keen to make donations, the organisation publishes a list on its website of the most-needed items, which include women’s clothing, makeup and shoes, work clothes (especially black skirts and white shirts), self-help books, and running shoes and active wear ( for self-defence classes).
Sera says Powa welcomes assistance from corporates looking to make a difference. Companies sometimes provide a much-needed morale booster for women at the shelters by taking them out for a picnic, some pampering or a 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 on the Cape Flats.
Volunteers are always welcome at the shelter, which houses 120 women and children, says advocate Bernadine Bachar, director of SBCWC.
To volunteer you need to submit an application form, which can be found on the organisation’s website (saartjiebaartmancentre.org.za). Alternatively, donors can sponsor a woman for her stay at the centre, which is R1 000 a month, usually for a period of around four months.
The SBCWC shelter in Manenberg accepts donations of nonperishable 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 organisation Ons Plek was the first in South Africa to offer shelter to girls living on the streets. From its humble beginnings in 1988, it now houses 35 girls in small child and youth care centres around the city, aimed at helping them develop the confidence and skills they need to make a fresh start.
Ons Plek has a donations wishlist on its website (onsplek.org.za), which includes basic groceries such as sugar, maize and coffee, toiletries, sports equipment and stationery. You can also make a financial donation via Payfast by clicking on a link on the website.
The organisation offers a year-long internship to social work, education or occupational therapy students. Applicants are assessed after submitting their CV, a police clearance form and additional documents stipulated on Ons Plek’s website.
Alternatively, the centre welcomes volunteers for up to two hours a week.
The Durban Hospice for Women provides a haven for abused and destitute women. Launched in 1951 under the auspices of the Rectors of St Paul’s and St Cyprian’s Anglican parishes, the nonprofit 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. Go to the organisation’s website (kerrhouse.co.za) for more information about how you can help.
JOIN FORCES WITH YOUR WARD COUNCILLOR
Angus Mckenzie, a ward councillor in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town, urges people to work with their area representatives to fight gender-based violence. He says all ward councillors have a duty to listen to the concerns of the residents of 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 other community leaders, he’s implemented various programmes aimed at keeping women and children safe. For instance, a new initiative, Women for Change, sees mothers volunteering to walk kids to school, spend time with the children during lunch breaks and assist with afterschool programmes.
Candice James, councillor of Ward 93 in Johannesburg, has launched a Victim Empowerment Centre at every police station in her ward. The centre has social workers on hand to assist with trauma counselling relating to anything from a car accident to rape or murder.
She urges community members to approach their councillor with suggestions for similar programmes if there aren’t any in their areas.
“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. Not only for ourselves but others around us.”
LAUNCH YOUR OWN INITIATIVE
Many established South African companies such as FoodForward South Africa and Shoprite Holdings Ltd are dedicated to funding NPOs, community projects and other causes working towards bettering the community.
But there are stringent application processes involved. Shoprite requires applicants to fill in and submit a form online. Proposals should be sent six to eight weeks prior to the event and only those that meet the guidelines and objectives will be considered for funding.
Cheryl Harper heads We Can Change Our World (wecanchange.co.za), an online portal that connects corporates with organisations dedicated to sustainable social transformation. Big companies and NPOs can post free listings on a directory on the site.
Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (CAF) also runs a database that features more than 500 nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and 22 corporates.
Each NGO is independently reviewed. Based on the needs of the donors and organisations, CAF (cafsouthernafrica.org) then facilitates funding partnerships.
Go to the city’s website (joburg.org.za). Click on the About the City link in the main menu and select Regions. Pick your region (from A-G). Once you make your selection you’ll be able to download a document with contact details for all the councillors in your region.
The City of Cape Town has a link in the main menu of its website (capetown.gov.za) that allows you to search by suburb or councillor name.
Ward councillors are listed on the official website of the eThekwini Municipality (www.durban.gov.za), where there’s a link to download the full listing as well as contact details.
OTHER PARTS OF SA
Go to elections. org.za. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and under the section What’s Popular click on the Who Is My Councillor? link.