Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a huge challenge in South Africa, with one in five adult women reporting having experienced violence. The violence is particularly prevalent in rural areas which have increased poverty. The Eastern Cape region of South Africa has the highest recorded levels of GBV in the country, with 32 percent of women in the province reporting partner-based violence. Due to the largely rural and therefore patriarchal nature of the Eastern Cape, women are at risk due to cultural and societal norms.
To address the situation, Anglican Overseas Aid partners with the Department of Social Responsibility (DSR) of the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown. As part of the project, dynamic women leaders are equipped to become Safe Persons, with training in human and legal rights, women-centred responses to violence and abuse, and counselling. The project also works to bridge the gap between Safe Persons and community stakeholders (particularly traditional leaders), so they can work hand in hand with police in making safe communities.
The project runs awareness and education sessions with different communities to address issues of GBV. Teachers, school governing bodies and university student leaders are invited to monthly forums to share information and formulate strategies of safety for learners and students in schools and university campuses. Training is provided on conflict management, GBV, human rights, child protection and harmful cultural practises with stakeholders of the communities, including all Safe Persons and police forums.
In addition, DSR facilitates the Sinakho Safe Community Network. This network strengthens community efforts to protect women and children from violence, and advocates for action on crime by their local police and justice system. It works to ensure vulnerable people feel safer and have greater confidence to report sexual assault. Victims of GBV are also referred to victim empowerment centres for counselling. DSR has also trained 250 safe persons who work hand in hand to support victims of GBV, and formalised relationships with police stations.
Josie (not her real name), is an 18 year old orphan who was raped and beaten. She was not able to recognise who attacked her as she was drunk at the time. A Safe Person worked with DSR, and Josie was taken to the hospital where she received medical attention and a forensic examination, including a DNA test. She was also given post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). DSR referred Josie to the victim empowerment centre for ongoing counselling. Following this, she was advised by the network to open a case even though she was unaware of the perpetrator. Last month she was told that, through the DNA test, the perpetrator has been found and charged and has had his first appearance in court.
"I never thought I would be able to beat the stigma of being a rape victim, but thanks to the support of the Safe Person in my community I am now a peer educator for DSR youth, helping other young people who have been in the same space as me," Josie said.
Anglican Overseas Aid is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program.