Swartland’s GBV ambassadors a beacon of hope
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign has been observed since 25 November, culminating in International Human Rights Day on 10 December.
Throughout this campaign we’ve seen communities taking to the streets in support of women, children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who’ve been victims and survivors of violence and abuse, while calling out perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Recent crime statistics, showing an increase in sexual offence incidents of 11% prove that these 16 days aren’t enough. We need to continue with the campaign long after 10 December. As the Western Cape Government, we believe in a 365 days approach to addressing GBV and femicide.
Premier Alan Winde and Social Development Minister Sharna Fernandez visited one municipality that is striving to make a difference every day, by utilising residents to help fellow community members.
The GBV Ambassador Programme in Swartland is a first of its kind in the province. These ambassadors, who are trained volunteers, will provide information about victim support programmes and services available for the intervention and prevention of GBV to residents in the Swartland Municipality. It is a perfect example of what the Western Cape government believes is one of the best ways to reduce GBV: a whole-of-society approach.
Premier Winde, Minister Fernandez and Swartland Municipality’s Executive Mayor Alderman Harold Cleophas honoured these GBV ambassadors by handing over certificates of completion of training. They also took to the streets of Lingelethu – a GBV hotspot – and Saamstaan, going door-to-door to see the ambassadors in action while they spoke to residents about the various support services available.
“It is important that communities do their part in supporting individuals get the help they need. When all role-players do their bit in supporting a victim, from police to health to justice to a neighbour…we can turn the tide and bring perpetrators of violence to book. I hope other municipalities take heed of Swartland’s innovation and replicates this GBV Ambassador Programme.” says Minister Fernandez.
Premier Winde said: “The continuous cycles of violence are unnatural and do not belong in any society. Those men who love, care for and cherish women and children should make the effort to pass these behaviours on to their sons, brothers, nephews, neighbours and friends. This dangerous cycle must end with us. As the Western Cape Government, our transversal approach to addressing the scourge of gender-based violence must be sustained and intensified 12 months a year.”
Mayor Cleophas said: “Actively engaging and appointing residents in the fight against gender-based violence is critical. We all have a responsibility in stopping and preventing GBV and by making our ward committees part of this fight, we are empowering communities with knowledge and activists that are easily accessible. Thank you to Minister Fernandez and her Department who have been incredibly supportive with this initiative.”
The Department of Social Development will continue in its efforts to assist and support all victims of violence, women, children, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and men.
In the 2021/2022 financial year, the DSD’s Victim Empowerment Programme saw more than 21 000 GBV victims accessing psychosocial support.
It has to be noted, the department’s services are being greatly hampered by the national crisis of load-shedding, which reached new levels of darkness this week with Stage 6 being reintroduced. These blackouts impact safety at GBV shelters and DSD offices.
“Our most vulnerable citizens, the abused and victimized, cannot take any more trauma. Their safety should be of the utmost importance to those in national leadership, especially as we head into the festive season where we often tragically see violent incidents increasing,” says Minister Fernandez.
If you need help, or know of someone who does, here are some helpful numbers:
Gender Based Violence Command Centre: Call 0800 428 428 or dial *120*786#
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
SAPS: 08600 10111
Report any abuse of children and women to the Department of Social Development on 0800 220 250.
Find out more about our safety services for women and children by sending an SMS with the word INFO to 35 395.