Minister Fernandez engages with shelters for abused women on impact of Covid19
On Monday, 17 August 2020, the Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, joined hands with DSD funded Victim Empowerment Programme(VEP) shelters in a virtual meeting themed, the “Circle of Courage”, to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on shelters providing support for victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
The Western Cape Department of Social Development (WC DSD) currently funds 20 shelters and an additional 20 Non-Profit Organisations(NPOs) that render psycho-social support to victims of crime and gender based violence in the Western Cape.
Minister Fernandez said, “Collaborating with key stakeholders providing victims support services remains crucial to helping us create a society in which, safety is prioritised and the rights and needs of victims of gender-based violence are acknowledged and effectively addressed.”
Minister Fernandez added, “I wish to express my sincere gratitude for all the work being done by all VEP shelter management and staff. We are remarkably grateful to the all our funded shelters for stepping up to the plate during these challenging times and providing much-needed services to the many women who find themselves destitute after being victims of GBV.”
The Chairperson of the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCM) , Bernadine Bachar said: “Today, we would like to celebrate the courage of all the women who have been working in our shelters during this time. These women have managed to go above and beyond whilst working under difficult circumstances the Covid-19 pandemic presented.”
Bachar added, “Thank you for always having the courage to do the right thing, especially at times when you have felt tired and defeated. All of our women have shown nothing less than courage and commitment.”
When discussing the importance of courage, Bachar continued by highlighting a quote by the late Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
Vice-chairperson of the Western Cape Women Shelter Movement Kathy Cronje said, "The demand for our services has increased exponentially during the pandemic. These times have indeed taken a toll on our staff, however, with the support of one another, we have managed to be innovative in the way that we go about our day-to-day business.”
Cronje added, “Although it has been a challenging period, I would also like to thank the provincial Department of Social Development, the provincial Department of Health and the civil society organisations for helping us deal with the worldwide pandemic.”
The Western Cape Department of Social Development, through its Victim Empowerment Programme, is responsible for providing victim support services that include safe and secure accommodation, psycho-social support and empowerment of victims of crime and violence.
Shelters are residential facilities that accommodate victims of crime and violence, and their children, in a crisis situation where their safety is at risk. Shelters provide short term intervention for up to 3 months, or longer if the shelter has second stage accommodation available. The shelters provide accommodation to victims and their children for up to 3 months, and 4 emergency shelters that accommodate victims for up to two weeks.
The existing shelter funding model consists of unit cost, security, skills development and a social work/ social auxiliary work post.
Shelters provide for basic needs that include: safe accommodation, protection, food, clothing and emotional support such as trauma debriefing and therapeutic counselling provided by a social worker. Shelters also assist with reintegration, victims are also provided with skills development opportunities to assist with the economic empowerment of the victim.
During the period starting from April 2020 and ending June 2020, 1 995 victims of gender-based violence accessed psycho-social support services being offered by the department and its partners. These services include; crisis containment for victims of sexual offences at the Thuthuzela Care Centres; court-support services for victims that applied for an interim protection order and, trauma counselling.
Empowerment of the victim starts from the point of admission at the shelter, where the victim’s needs will be assessed including whether the victim has a permanent place of stay. The assessment report will influence the services or interventions conducted with the victims.
“Gender-based violence sees no race, ethnicity, class or political affiliation. It is these types of collaborative efforts that will enable us to make a tangible difference - 365 days a year for the people of our Province,” concluded Minister Fernandez.