ATC111116: Report Oversight Visit to Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women (SBC) & Thuthuzela Care Centre
REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ON THE OVERSIGHT VISIT TO THE SAARTJIE BAARTMAN AND THUTHUZELA CARE CENTRES FOR ABUSED WOMEN, DATED 16 NOVEMBER 2011.
The Select Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, having undertaken an oversight visit to the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women (SBC) and the Thuthuzela Care Centre on the 23 March 2011 reports as follows:
1. Introduction and terms of reference
The Committee, as mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of the National Council of Provinces, undertook the oversight visit. The oversight visit was undertaken in terms of the strategic priorities of the NCOP as they relate to the following objective:
· Objective Four: Oversee related initiatives and overseeing the implementation of programmes aimed at assisting socially vulnerable groups
The oversight visit was further informed by the Committee’s five year strategic plan.
The aim of the oversight visit was as follows:
· To conduct site visits at the Saartjie Baartman and Thuthuzela Care Centres, and
· To investigate the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act at both centres.
Hon. B.P. Mabe (ANC); Hon D.A. Worth (DA); Mahdiyah Solomons (Committee Secretary), Tasneem Matthews (Researcher) and Nomtha Zixesha (Personal Assistant to Committee Chairperson)
3. Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women
The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children (SBC) was opened in 1999 as the first multi-disciplinary service (one-stop) centre for abused women and children in the country. The SBC worked closely with its partner organisations to provide an on-site multidisciplinary service centre for the effective management, treatment and prevention of violence against women and children. The SBC had since evolved to be the prime learning site nationally for providing holistic, integrated services to survivors of violence. Some of the services provided were managed directly by the SBC. These included a 24-hour crisis response; a residential shelter and transitional housing for abused women and their children; legal assistance; and job-skills training. The other services were provided by organisations working in partnership at the SBC and included an after-hours crisis response for children; specialised counselling services in rape/sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse, trauma and domestic violence; job-skills training and job placement projects; HIV/AIDS programmes; community outreach; advocacy and lobbying; training; and research. Services at the SBC cut across the sectors of gender inequality, children and persons with disabilities.
The SBC is situated in Manenberg on the Cape Flats, an area with extremely high rates of crime, gangsterism, child abuse, unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence. It provided services to the surrounding areas and a wide range of constituencies: neighbouring townships, farming communities in the Phillippi, Constantia, and Stellenbosch areas, and 'informal' settlements. The SBC employed 23 permanent staff members who provided a wide range of services at the Centre. Further staff needs were fulfilled by visiting international and local interns who provided volunteer work at the Centre.
The services at SBC included the following:
· A 24-hour emergency shelter (safe accommodation)
· Short and medium term residential care
· Childcare services
· Counselling, mental health support, legal and economic empowerment services
· Research on gender-based violence
· Job Skills training
· On and off site catering project
Apart from its Athlone based centre, similar services were currently being provided at a shelter in Worcester called the Eerste Begin Shelter. It provided women and children with a 24-hour emergency shelter facility, counselling and empowerment programme for the women of the Worcester vicinity.
The SBC worked with a number of NGO partners located at the facility. It provided a holistic range of services to women who were victims of domestic violence, capacitating them to become financially independent and re-enter the workforce. The NGO partner projects included the following:
ANEX (Activist Networking against the Exploitation of Children)
A child rights organisation working against the trafficking and exploitation of children.
Athlone After-hours Child Abuse Centre
In partnership with the Department of Social Development this project works with abused, neglected and abandoned children.
Provides resources, counselling and support to the transgender community.
Focussed on children who have lost parents and or siblings to HIV/AIDS, this programme supports the mental health and provides counselling to bereaved children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Lifeline/Childline-Youth Development Programme
Provides counselling and support to youth, particularly those at risk of suicide and conducts life skills training from youth from the surrounding communities.
Rural Education, Awareness and Community Health (Reach)
Focuses on addressing harassment and sexual exploitation of farm workers, particularly from the Overberg region of the Western Cape, this project furthermore provides counselling in respect of rape victims, those persons affected by HIV/AIDS and victims of domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse.
Provides education, training and support to drug and alcohol abuse victims.
IBN SINA Institute of TIBB
Provides for the advancement of TIBB in South Africa, which empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own health, it includes alternative approaches to medicine and promotes holistic health care to women and youth.
Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture
The NGO partner provides advice, counselling and training to victims of violence and torture.
A relief organisation aimed at those communities hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, this includes skills training, advocacy and counselling.
3.1. Committee feedback and challenges observed
The following challenges were noted at the SBC:
· Ever increasing demand for services
The demand for services for women had amplified over the past few years. That increase in demand had not been matched by an increasing number in NGOs providing services to women; in fact, the number of NGOs was dwindling. That put an increasing strain on the services and resources of the remaining organisations. The SBC noted that an impression was created that NGOs provided the services of government. As a result, law enforcement officials dropped victims of domestic violence and at-risk women and children at the Centre. In the past month (April 2011Would the past month not be February since you are reporting in March???) the SBC provided counselling services to between 400 and 600 women. On average, 30% of the clients needed intervention and social services for their children (in the form of social work intervention, psycho-education on children’s rights and assessing the welfare of children experiencing domestic violence) and were often referred by the Department of Social Development. Many of the children had disciplinary and behavioural problems and were being abused physically, emotionally, and sexually. They were in urgent need of intervention. These children were referred to the Centre by the Department of Social Development. However, additional funding was not being made available by the Department for that additional service.
· Limited funding
The SBC was subsidised to the amount of R 70 000.00 per month (R 50 000.00 for shelter and operational costs; and R20, 000.00 for water, electricity, and security) by the Western Cape Provincial Department of Social Development. The subsidy had not been increased over the past nine years and there was no guarantee that it would be renewed from year to year. Most of the funding for internal projects came from the National Lottery and international donors as well as internal savings and income generation.
The building at which the SBC was based belonged to the Department of Public Works. The SBC had a five year lease agreement with the Department of Social Development and paid a nominal fee for rent. The SBC however was responsible for maintenance and upkeep which put a huge strain on its already constricted budget.
· Lack of implementation of the Domestic Violence Act
The SBC noted a lack of understanding by law enforcement officials in respect of their roles and responsibilities in terms of the Domestic Violence Act. Many police officers did not understand the seriousness or immediate danger that a domestic violence victim was in and often tried passing that matter off as a domestic dispute, thereby putting the victim in further harm. The challenges experienced by the Centre in respect of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development included the following:
· Clients of the SBC could not afford sheriff’s fees for divorces, as most of them were unemployed and financially dependent on their husbands;
· Staff at the SBC were working at maximum capacity;
· The SBC was struggling to get documents to court due to the fact that it had only one motor vehicle that was also used by other projects, e.g. for donation pick-ups;
· Magistrates at court did not see the urgency of clients’ protection order applications; where there was physical abuse magistrates gave only a court date, whereas they could give an interim protection order so that the client already had protection for the period before the court date; and
· the same problem was experienced with the clerks at the court who did not take applications to the magistrates immediately.
· Medium-Term to long-term accommodation for victims of domestic violence
The SBC provided a second stage housing programme for survivors of domestic violence who had gone through its programmes and were seeking employment. These women paid a nominal rental fee for the duration of their stay. However, many women who had been forced out of their homes by their intimate partners through domestic violence and had been through the programmes at the SBC still battled to find affordable accommodation for themselves and their children.
3.2. Committee resolutions
· The committee would engage with the Western Cape provincial Department of Social Development for additional funding for the Centre.
· The Committee would engage with the Western Cape Provincial Department of Community Safety for additional training for law enforcement officials in respect of the Domestic Violence Act.
4. Thuthuzela Care Centre
The Thuthuzela Care Centres could be described as a unique one-stop, integrated response to the burgeoning incidence of violent sexual acts against women and children and its intersect with HIV and AIDS. The Thuthuzelas in operation at the GF Jooste Hospital in Manenberg, Cape Town were placed in communities where the incidence of rape was particularly high and were also linked to the sexual offences courts, a new and unique South African anti-rape intervention.
The Thutuzela Care Centre was established to deal with that challenge by improving the process of reporting and prosecution of rape and other sexual offences in a dignified and caring environment. These centres sought to lessen the trauma of sexual violence and to reduce secondary victimisation of survivors by providing professional medical care, counselling, access to dedicated investigators and prosecutors, all under one roof. The Thuthuzela Care Centre was designed and implemented by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), together with the Departments of Health, Social Development and Justice and Constitutional Development, as well as the South African Police Services, with support from UNICEF. Thuthuzela had improved the process of reporting and prosecuting rape and other sexual offences, and offender conviction rates were up.
Thuthuzelas had an integrated approach to rape care. The rape victim was brought from the police station to the Centre where the victim received counselling in private, upon which a medical examination was conducted. That took place within 24 hours of the rape having taken place. The victim was then given appropriate medication and a follow-up date for further treatment before being transported home. Arrangements were made for the victim to be placed in a place of safety should the situation require it.
The purpose of these centres was to improve the process of reporting and prosecuting rape and other sexual offences, and reducing secondary trauma to survivors as the entire process took place in a dignified and friendly environment, reducing the trauma of the rape through a multi-disciplinary centre that could fast track the medical and criminal processing associated with the rapes.
4.1. Committee Observations
- There were an increasing number of child rape cases involving incest being referred to the Centre, with a noted increase among young boys.
- There was a limited understanding by officers with regard to their role in respect of the Domestic Violence Act.
The Committee noted the challenges experienced by both centres in relation to delivering a quality service to their clients and commended the centres for the outstanding work they had done in improving the lives of abused women and children. The Committee furthermore observed the gaps in service delivery, notably from the Western Cape Provincial Department of Community Safety, in respect of the understanding of its law enforcement officials in respect of their role in the Domestic Violence Act and resolved to champion the further training of these law enforcement officials with the Western Cape MEC for Community Safety.
Report to be considered.
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