There are 39 Green Door shelters across the province to offer immediate assistance to victims. Picture: Supplied
There are 39 Green Door shelters across the province to offer immediate assistance to victims. Picture: Supplied

Green Door initiative keeps GBV survivors out of harm’s way

By Tshepiso Tshabalala Time of article published Sep 20, 2021

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Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) are some of the most prevalent issues that face numerous South African women and children.

Ihaya Lethemba offers shelter for women and their dependent children. Picture: Supplied

The unfortunate part is that many of these cases go unreported as victims feel they are stuck with no other avenue, while some have lost faith in the justice system as countless victims continue to die at the hands of their perpetrators.

In the first quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year the South African Police Service (SAPS) reported that at least 476 cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) were reported in Gauteng, yet only 31 perpetrators were convicted.

As part of their response to the fight against GBVF, the Gauteng Provincial Government established 39 ’Green Doors’ across the province to offer immediate assistance to victims.

“The Green Door project provides local grassroots services wherein victims can be immediately contained. A safe place for victims for a short period, not exceeding four hours. These sites are meant to accommodate communities in remote areas, especially those who do not have police stations within a proximity of 5 kilometres. Victims are emotionally contained and thereafter referred to the police station for further criminal justice interventions,” said Nokuphumla Dineka, Acting Director at Ikhaya Lethemba GBV Command Centre.

Between January 2020 and August 2021, the project has assisted approximately 144 victims. However, it may seem that these green doors are not sufficient as not every police station is catered for. Moreover, there are minimal shelters available to accommodate victims.

According to the Gauteng Department of Community Safety, Ikhaya Lethemba is the flagship of the Green Door initiative. It serves as a one-stop shelter that provides short-to-long-term victim empowerment services and accommodation for a period of six to nine months.

“Ikhaya Lethemba has two shelters in Braamfontein and Evaton. The former has the capacity of 100 women and their dependent children, while the latter has the capacity of 20 women and their children. Additionally, there are other 23 networks of shelters around Gauteng that are funded by the Department of Social Development, which makes referrals easier when the need arises,” said Conny Ramathibela, Deputy Director of Professional Services at Ikhaya Lethemba.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance’s Ekhuruleni mayoral candidate, Refiloe Nt’sekhe said the Green Door project is not as effective as it should be, considering that only 6.5% of the reported GBV cases in Gauteng resulted in convictions.

“I know these Green Doors. I have been an MPL since 2014 and GBV has not improved at all. If the Green Doors were so effective, we wouldn’t see a bigger incident rate. If I were a victim myself, I would not trust going to the police with the 6% conviction rate. If anything, I would rather then appease my abuser because there is a 93,5% chance that they would come back home to abuse me after I reported them.”

Director of Rise Against Gender-Based Violence, Mandisa Khanyile, said they welcome the Green Door project only if they are well-positioned and adequately resourced to serve their purpose. She said it is important to have emergency first-aid sheltering especially for incidents that may take place at night, however, a long-term and sustainable solution is much needed.

“The shelter system traditionally housed survivors of GBV for a period of three to four months. That is obviously not sustainable ,in a sense that, in three to four months, you can have another escape plan, but what are we doing in terms of empowering survivors that are economically dependent on their partners to have alternatives?

“I’ve had a view that we need to have either an exit strategy that speaks directly into RDP housing for survivors. Alternatively, as a second option, have a long-term sheltering situation. A two to three-year stay situation for survivors exiting the shelter space, and during that period be engaged in a vibrant economic recovery economic plan.”

Khanyile said proper skills development cannot be done in a period of four months. And without skills development and ensuring that someone is bringing something to market in exchange for resources, it would be difficult to empower survivors.

Sunday Independent

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