Pretoria - Rather than dealing with the after-effects of sexual abuse and rape, efforts to stop sexual abuse even before it happens are under way at the Alaska informal settlement in Mamelodi.
The Viva Village launched a trial version of using a panic button in the informal settlement, coinciding with the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which runs until December 10.
Meleney Kriel, of the foundation, said fighting against sexual violence was a priority. One couldn’t just throw resources at the scourge and hope that people, especially in impoverished areas, would pull themselves out of the trouble.
“The after-effects of sexual violence are so many that we thought it would be more helpful to try to stop it altogether and give communities a better way of responding to violence other than mob justice.”
Kriel said together with the High Commission in Canada - that funded the trial - they would give 200 homes panic buttons to use over a three-month period to see if the project could be expanded.
“The devices will be available to the most vulnerable homes within a 400m radius of the Viva Foundation, especially homes with single women living alone, the elderly, disabled persons and women whose partners work far from home,” she said.
Kriel told residents that once the panic button was pressed, 22 SMSes with the shack number and GPRS co-ordinates would be sent to community leaders, police, responders and hospitals. It would also activate a siren at the centre to alert the entire community someone was in distress.
Sheryl McLaughlin, second secretary of the High Commission of Canada, said: “Dealing with the scourge of rape is important not just for the individual but the development of the community, so we saw it fit to prioritise new ideas like this.”
McLaughlin said the entire trial cost R200 000 and they hoped it could help residents join forces against crime. Alaska resident Albertina Lethuba said she was glad they were finally given a new way of fighting crime against women. “I’ve seen my family from rural areas using this panic button so I have hope it will also make a difference for us .”
Said foundation co-ordinator Bobby Mohanoe: “We are working on drawing in men… to help and become responders so they can be on the alert and make a difference because it’s their fight too.”