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National Shelter Movement

National Shelter Movement Calls For The President To Address Funding Of Women’s Abuse Shelters

The National Shelter Movement of South Africa has published an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Department of Women and the Department of Social Development to urgently address the underfunding of shelters and poor service delivery in the funding of and payments to women’s abuse shelters in South Africa.

Zubeda Dangor Head of the Executive of NSM says, “We have heard President Ramaphosa refer to gender based violence as a “second pandemic” and as “a war being waged” on women. Despite these strong statements, one of the major services that assists victims of violence to leave abusive and dangerous situations – women’s abuse shelters – continues to be overlooked and underfunded. The situation in the Eastern Cape has reached boiling point and can no longer be ignored.”

According to Dangor, within the National Shelter Movement, five women’s abuse shelters in the Eastern Cape have reported dealing with delayed funding for several years and, as a result, have faced staff resignations, increased costs to the shelter from loans to cover the late payments and reduced funding over the years because the DSD will not accept backdated receipts after funding is finally disbursed.

Western Cape’s NSM Bernadine Bachar Representative says, “The underfunding of women’s shelters is a longstanding issue. Last year, we issued a memorandum to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, in which we implored her to, among other things, urgently address the underfunding of women’s abuse shelters and late payments by the DSD. Our recommendations are based on the results of the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) investigation into shelter services, which found what we already know, that late payment of tranches severely undermines the functions of shelters.”

The 2019 report, The State of Shelters, recommends that DSD takes urgent action to put systems in place that safeguards against late payment, such as the pre-warning of required payments. It is also important that those officials responsible for effecting the payments are held accountable when these are late.

NSM’s alternative funding model, “What is Rightfully Due? Costing the Operations of Domestic Violence Shelters” – developed in partnership with the Heinrich Boell Foundation – clearly illustrates the actual cost of running a shelter, compared to how they are currently funded. It also emphasizes the risks posed by the shortfall. 

This year, with the added pressure of the global pandemic and national lockdown, the delay in payments continues. A report composed by Lisa Vetten representing the Care Work Campaign and Margaret Grobbelaar from the National Coalition of Social Services showed that, in some provinces and most notably in the Eastern Cape, the issue of late payments by the DSD persists and affects a range of sectors, including services to older persons, disabilities and child protection. The NPO Financing Report, published in July 2020, lists a total of 138 organisations, 103 of which are based in the Eastern Cape, who had not yet received their first quarter funding tranches.

“The inadequacies and inefficiency of the Department of Social Development’s payment policies for shelters is failing survivors of gender based violence,” says Bachar. “Another example from last year was the announcement that R100million would be allocated from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) as financial support for organisations that provide direct services to victims of crime and abuse. Many shelters have applied but so far, only 1 out of 14 in the Western Cape were approved.”

Women’s abuse shelters form an integral part of the response services to victims of violence. The state’s responsibility to provide these sheltering services is enshrined in the Domestic Violence Act (1998) and the service also forms an integral part of the National Policy Guidelines for Victim Empowerment.

“Shelters disrupt violence in at least two ways. First, they provide immediate sanctuary and protection to women and their children. Second, as places of reflection and support, shelters provide women with a bridge out of despair, to a life free from violence. Research has found that more than half of women do not return to their partners after leaving shelters. The evidence is there to support the valuable contribution of shelters. Now we need a clear commitment from the President that shelters will have reliable and sufficient funding support from the government,” concludes Dangor.

Find a link to NSM’s letter to President Ramaphosa here: