A recently launched research report by the Hlanganisa Institute for Development in South Africa (HiDSA), the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF), calls on government to strengthen current policy and funding to shelters for abused women. Greater investment in critical support services - such as those offered by shelters - is vital in a country with high rates of violence and abuse committed against women and children.
“In S v Baloyi the Constitutional Court placed a clear duty on the state to address domestic violence. As the form of violence most frequently experienced by women, this obligation is entirely necessary. This is particularly true within the context of sheltering services,” explains Lisa Vetten, author of HiDSA’s “What is Rightfully Due? Costing the Operations of Domestic Violence Shelters”, report. The report is co-funded by the European Union.
While shelter services are critical in disrupting domestic violence, they “are not only chronically under-funded, especially when provided by non-profit organisations, but also highly variable, with the subsidies provided by the Department of Social Development (DSD) differing both within the same province, as well as across provinces.” says Vetten.
To place under-funding in context, project manager of the HBF, Claudia Lopes, explains that the research they have conducted with the NSM finds that “DSD funding to shelters can range from as little as R9 per day to a slightly more generous rate in other provinces but none which exceed R70 per day. Funding for shelter staff is also shockingly low. In one particular province, DSD’s subsidy towards all shelter staff was a meager R600 a month!”
“This situation”, says Executive Head of the NSM, Zubeda Dangor, “resulted in at least one of our member shelters having to close its doors this year. This is simply not acceptable.”
Enabling women to leave their abusive partners contributes to reducing women’s future use of health facilities, social development services, as well as their use of court and policing services. By limiting children’s exposure to violence, shelters also help reduce the likelihood of children growing up to either perpetrate or experience violence as adults.
The report proposes a framework for improving policy and more adequate costing of shelter facilities and programmes based on women’s actual use of shelters.
“The framework,” says Bongiwe Ndondo, Executive Director of HiDSA “factors in adequate client to staff ratios; more appropriate subsidies towards the employment of key personnel, and far more equitable distribution of funding to cover costs directly related to the sheltering of women and their children and the general running of the shelter.”
The organisations call on government to seriously consider these recommendations. In a country inundated with domestic violence and other forms of abuses committed against women, we cannot have policy that is not closely attuned to women’s needs and without budget adequate to realizing these policy goals.