Enhancing State and Community Response to Gender Based Violence: Outcomes of a Town-hall Meeting in Lavender Hill
In their ‘Enhancing State Response to Gender Based Violence (GBV)’ project, HBF and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre seek to promote more just outcomes for survivors of rape and domestic violence. The project aims to achieve this through enhancing the capacity of civil society to hold the state accountable for delivering services to women whose rights have been abused. In partnership with local organizations, communities are encouraged to engage with their leadership on identifying priority interventions for local government in response to GBV.
On the 15th of September 2012, more than 30 Lavender Hill community members, representatives of non-profit and community based organizations (including Mosaic and the Women’s Legal Centre who are experts in the field of GBV), ward councillors and the local police Trauma Counsellor attended a townhall meeting hosted in partnership with the New World Foundation. GBV specialist organizations, Mosaic and the Women’s Legal Centre, were also invited to participate.
Lavender Hill is a community riddled with high levels of gang violence, substance abuse and unemployment. The extent of gangsterism in this community is so extreme that it has in the past required military intervention to assist the police in curbing the spate of violence that ensues between gang members. By July 2012, 23 people, including 7 children, had been killed as result of gang shootings.
Within this context it is not surprising to hear that violence against women is of significant concern as is the lack of shelters or safe houses for women in the area. Only one community based organization in Lavender Hill is able to offer emergency (a number of days only) shelter. This service is further restricted by the fact that space is limited to three women at a time. The nearest shelters to Lavender Hill reside in Wynberg and Simonstown. While the police can assist in transporting abused women to these locations, the shelters cannot always accommodate these women, so that many are left with no option but to return home.
The lack of shelters is however not the only challenge that abused women face in the community. Community members also shared their perceptions that the police did not always take cases of domestic violence seriously. They testified how some police officers would refuse to assist women seeking reprieve from domestic violence, instructing them to ‘go home and sort out their own problems’.
Community members also felt let down by government. They criticized how Lavender Hill has been branded a ‘gang area,’ only generating state and media attention during periods of gang violence.
Although ward councillors arrived late and at different times throughout the day, they were able to engage with the community on some of the raised issues. While recognizing the importance of addressing women’s safety needs, councillors admitted that government did not currently have any interventions in place to tackle GBV in this community.
PR Councillor and member of the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Portfolio Committee, Llewellyn Jordaan, invited event organizers and participating organizations, to join forces in preparing a submission on their concerns and formulating recommendations to the Portfolio Committee’s meeting on the 7th of November 2012.
Watch this space for a more detailed report on the town-hall meeting as well as further news on activities related to the submission!
- Download the full programme
- Yazeed Kamaldien, Lavender Hill feels "ignored by council officials", Cape Times, 18 September 2012
- Cape Times, Editorial: Hidden Gender, 20 September 2012