A new research report has found that gender-based violence shelters are chronically underfunded.
Authored by Wits University’s Lisa Vetten, the report titled What is Rightfully Due? Costing the Operations of Domestic Violence Shelters states that shelter services are critical in disrupting domestic violence because they provide “immediate sanctuary and protection” to women and their children.
Heinrich Böll Foundation project manager Claudia Lopes (CORRECT) said research conducted in conjunction with the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSM) found that the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) funding to shelters varied both in provinces and across the country.
“Funding to shelters can range from as little as R5 per day to cover the practical needs of women and their children, such as food, school-related costs, transport, healthcare and toiletries, to a slightly more generous rate in other province but none which exceeds R70 per day.
Funding for shelter staff is also shockingly low. In one particular province, DSD’s subsidy towards all shelter staff was a meager R600 a month,” Lopes said.
Vetten said there was gross underfunding of shelters and different amounts given to these organisations across the country.
“This is suggestive of policy that is highly inadequate and one in which services are determined by what funding is available rather than determining that which is necessary to provide the service,” Vetten said.
She notes in the report commissioned by the Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa that policy in shelters has been stagnant.
“Shelters and their services ought to emerge from a close conversation between policies and budgets, with this dialogue rooted in close attention to abused women’s needs and rights. Yet the policy and budget analysis offered by this report neither suggests such coherence nor provides evidence for the progressive realisation of shelter services to women in abusive relationships. Indeed, where advances have been made over the last decade these have occurred in relation to facilities which, even on the department’s own definition, do not qualify as shelters,” Vetten said.
She said comprehensive policy was required around sheltering women escaping domestic violence.
“Policy development must involve departments other than the DSD, especially in relation to assisting women to obtain a livelihood. Although the DSD standards and 2013-2018 strategy reflect an expectation that women will be trained around entrepreneurship and other skills designed to increase their employability, this is not feasible, nor is it funded.
“The Departments of Labour and Trade and Industry, as well as the relevant Sector Education and Training Authorities must play a role in providing skills, training and employment programmes to women in shelters,” Vetten said.