We are in crisis and we need all of society to fight the scourge of gender-based violence
Our women and children are under attack and South Africa is bleeding.
Nearly every week we lose women and children due to violence perpetrated by men.
Little Tazne Van Wyk from Elsies River was one of the most recent victims.
Even little boys are being senselessly killed, including Sibusiso Dakuse, 12, from Hout Bay and Reagan Gertse, 8, from Tulbagh.
The levels to which this scourge is escalating tells us that there is something seriously wrong and sick in our society.
We are in a crisis and we need all sectors of society to join forces to fight this scourge because the government cannot do it alone.
I have previously said we have debated the issue of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide long enough and that South Africans are sick and tired.
The situation is heart-breaking; it is unthinkable and yet it is our reality.
But the time for talking is long gone. It is time for action.
One of the reasons women and children are forced to stay in abusive relationships and are at risk of being killed is that they often have nowhere to go, or they are not financially secure enough to leave.
Pain is not normal and women must walk away from abuse because this can literally save their and their children’s lives.
On September 18, 2019, during a joint sitting in the National Assembly, I made the commitment that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) would make unoccupied state-owned properties available to be used as shelters for victims of GBV.
Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu and I announced that six more properties were being made available in the Western Cape and two properties in Gauteng to be used as safe havens for women and children who are victims of abuse.
These properties are to be handed over to Western Cape and Gauteng social development departments.
This followed the announcement by Minister Zulu and myself in December, where the first four properties in Pretoria were handed over from DPWI to the Department of Social Development for use as shelters.
The handing over of these properties will enable the Department of Social Development to implement programmes to support women and children who are being abused so they can have a place to escape the abuse, find solace and rebuild their lives.
In doing so, we are ensuring that public land and buildings ensure social justice.
The most recent properties to be handed over for shelters for GBV victims in Western Cape are on the Garden Route, West Coast and in the Central Karoo, while the two Gauteng properties are in Johannesburg.
DPWI officials are assessing more unoccupied properties in all provinces and more properties will be released to provide shelter to GBV victims in the coming weeks and months.
In the Western Cape, for example, DPWI officials are assessing properties within the City of Cape Town, Drakenstein, Overberg and in the Cape Winelands district municipalities.
The exact locations of these properties will not be revealed as a safety measure so that perpetrators will not know where women and children are being kept safe.
The release of these properties and others in the near future to provide safe havens for abuse victims will hopefully save more women and children from becoming statistics.
Apart from the properties which DPWI is releasing to help address this scourge, in September last year I also made a commitment that we would work with non-profit organisations (NPOs) and deploy expanded public works programme (EPWP) workers to assist their efforts in communities across the country.
EPWP workers have since been deployed to all districts across the country to do GBV advocacy, raise awareness and provide support to victims of abuse and communities.
DPWI through an NPO programme has recruited a total of 319 EPWP workers (254 participants in 19 district municipalities and 65 participants in five metros) involved in the activities that deals with GBV and femicide.
These participants have been contracted by 37 NPOs based in eight provinces who have provided the EPWP workers with victim empowerment training before being deployed into communities.
The main activities of the participants who are involved in GBV and femicide advocacy include conducting dialogues with community members to discuss GBV and femicide against women and children and one-on-one counselling of victims and perpetrators of GBV in order to mitigate or avoid GBV and femicide.
Other activities by NPOs and EPWP workers include supporting affected families or partners through counselling that is conducted by trained social workers, referring and taking victims to SAPS to lay charges and do court interdicts where necessary, as well as referring victims to hospitals in order for them to receive medical attention.
In addition to these measures, in September last year, I also made a commitment that DPWI would use government buildings to install GBV prevention and awareness messages and so far one billboard has been installed, in Pretoria near the Kgosi Mampuru Prison.
Processes are under way to install a GBV artwork in Cape Town and a programme to roll out a campaign across the country is being finalised so that the GBV campaign can be rolled out across the country to be in the faces of these monsters who perpetrate these sick crimes against our women and children.
These are the contributions of DPWI to the scourge but we need all partners on board to do anything they can because if we sit back and do nothing and just talk, history will judge us.
Beyond these interventions by government, it is also time that we go back to the values of “my child is your child” and keep a close watch over our children when they are walking to the shop or playing.
We sadly live in a world where we cannot take anything for granted and where trust is not something that can be freely given.
We have to watch over our women and children.
We especially need to stand up and take action to help this cause.
* Patricia de Lille is the Minister of Public Works.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.