Gender-based violence shelters go without critical government funding

Nongovernmental organisations that support survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Vhembe district municipality have accused the provincial department of social development of neglecting those people.

The last time they received funding from the department was in the first quarter, forcing them to shut their doors because they cannot pay for rent and electricity at their facilities, according to the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), which comprises  32 nonprofit organisations that provide trauma counselling and shelter for survivors of rape and gender-based violence.

The organisations say this will leave more than 400 survivors of violence stranded.

“We feel let down by the department and this issue has been going on for the past 10 years. This year, we only received funding in the first quarter only and they haven’t given us an explanation, ” said TVEP executive director Tshilidzi Masikwa.

He said a decade-long trend by the department of not sending funds on time suggested that it did not consider trauma centres in Vhembe district a priority. It meant that 37 TVEP employees had to work for months without getting paid. 

Funding for victim empowerment organisations had been cut by 80%, with the money being allocated instead to to early childhood development centres, Masikwa added.

“There has been no indication that the department is committed to the national strategic plan on GBV and femicide that the president said the government was committed to,” he said.

A recent report said the Covid-19 pandemic had had a significant negative effect on the rollout of the strategy to tackle gender-based violence and femicide. It also pointed to some government departments displaying a lack of urgency in implementing it, with only 10 departments recording a 50% compliance towards the objectives for the first year.

Witness Tiva, the spokesperson for the social development department, said the TVEP was managing two centres at the Tshilidzini and Donald Frazer hospitals in Vhembe district where each centre was allocated R167 500 a year.

 “No budget has been cut,” Tiva said. “The reality is that there has been inadequate budget allocation for the nonprofit institution [NPI] item for the victim empowerment programmes [VEPs] against the costing. Despite the NPI budget reduction in the current financial year there has never been budget cuts for VEPs in all the five districts.”

He said the allegation that early childhood development centres had been prioritised over gender-based violence services was also not true.

“The department is obliged to render other services outside of the VEP. Our mandate is to render other services such as community development aimed at alleviating poverty, social relief of distress, substance abuse and ECDs [early childhood development] and ensure that they run unhindered. When we do budget allocation we make sure all these programmes are catered for,” Tiva added.

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Marcia Zali
Marcia Zali is an award winning journalist

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