The Western Cape Government (WCG) hosted its Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Summit today to report on the progress made in this sector, and to give civil society a platform to make inputs ahead of the Presidential Summit next month.
The summit focused on how, as a collective of government working together with civil society organisations, communities, and citizens, we can bring about lasting change.
The summit was attended by more than 1000 delegates online, along with participants in person at George and Robertson venues. During break-away groups, attendees had the opportunity to discuss solutions that address the factors driving GBVF.
“Barely a week goes by where we do not have a women or child fall victim to gender-based violence or femicide in our province and country. This scourge haunts me,” lamented Premier Alan Winde.
He added that it also serves as a grim yet important reminder that “we as the Western Cape Government have to intensify our efforts to keep women, girls and other vulnerable people safe from harm.”
Since the first Presidential Summit on GBVF in 2019, and the approval of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in 2020 the Western Cape Government has developed and actioned a Provincial Implementation Plan for the NSP.
Recognising the increasing incidents of GBVF in the province, and the country as a whole, Premier Winde charged Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez with being the lead in the province for GBV, and her department was tasked with coordinating the development of the Western Cape Government GBV Implementation Plan.
The provincial implementation plan, adopted by Cabinet in September 2021, details each provincial department’s interventions as it aligns to the six pillars of the NSP.
A Western Cape Government Transversal GBV Forum was established and meets on a monthly basis, to support a whole of government response.
Since 2019/20 the Department of Social Development has spent R114 332 000 on Victim Empowerment services. This included the provision of psychosocial support to 63 483 victims of gender-based violence during the same period. Thirty specialist GBV social workers were appointed to assist with the specific needs faced by victims of abuse. Access to GBV therapeutic support services was further supported by the deployment of NPO social workers to identified hotspot areas, including Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Elsies River, Delft, Hanover Park, Nyanga, Philippi, Gugulethu and Langa.
The provincial departments of Transport and Public Works and Social Development, along with our NPO partners, worked together to make the Western Cape the first province to fully operationalize and launch six additional GBV shelters, using properties transferred from the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. There are now 26 funded GBV shelters in the province. These have been expanded into rural areas which include the Bergrivier, Swartland, Hessequa and Central Karoo. The GBV shelters in the province provides protection to women, children, trafficked women, and LGBTQIA+ persons.
The National Prosecuting Authority has opened eight Thuthuzela Care Centres in partnership with the provincial Departments of Health and Social Development, where victims of GBV can access 24-hour medical care, psychosocial support services, and a prosecutor is allocated to assist successful prosecution.
The Department of Community Safety (DoCS), monitors the role played by the South African Police Service in the registration of domestic violence incidents, the investigation of those cases through oversight and the Court Watching Briefs. It also reports on systemic failures which lead to GBV cases being struck off court roles.
DoCS further conducts community engagements on domestic violence on how to apply for an interdict; monitors the functioning of selected victim friendly rooms; participates in law enforcement violence prevention initiatives to support GBVF reduction, and reviews alcohol legislation and policy to reduce availability and consumption in order to reduce drug and alcohol related harms, which increases risk of GBVF.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has established the Safe Schools toll free number (0800 45 46 47) where all teachers and learners can report any form of abuse, and receive advice and support. The Western Cape is the only province to have such a hotline.
Furthermore, GBV is addressed in the curriculum from Grade 4 – 12, so that we can educate learners from an early age that this is unacceptable. The WCED worked with Google to develop the Online Safety Curriculum, deemed crucial as learners are spend much of their time on the internet and social media. In some cases, social media is the gateway to GBV. The WCED is also doing extensive work with schools through the Transform to Perform strategy to reduce anti-social behaviour – including abuse – in our schools.
The Premier said: “The Provincial Government has implemented a host of interventions to combat GBVF, but more can and will be done. The issue remains one of the Western Cape’s most dire and pressing problems. GBVF remains a barrier for many of our citizens to living dignified lives. We have to do more to not just protect women and children but also empower them.
“Unfortunately this scourge is everywhere. I have had to address GBVF issues both within my political party and in the Western Cape Government. I can assure you that I will do everything I can to deal with these cases decisively and ensure that a fair and just process is followed wherever this is identified. It is the only way we can change behaviour, by addressing each and every incident as we become aware of them. Let us use this summit to review, assess and intensify measures to prevent GBVF and ensure our communities are safe.”
Summit presentations can be accessed here: https://filegooi.co.za/get2/ab55ac55c16a0bf7c87ccab160a80be1/WC+GBVF+Summit.zip