Courtney Pieters, Lindokuhle Kota, Rene Tracy Roman, Karabo Mokoena, Vuyiseka Poni – just a handful of the many victims of abuse and murder this year. Ongoing and relentless gender based violence and crimes against children have sparked outrage and despair, angry social media debates and community rallies in 2017.
Through a campaign called Help #ChangeHerStory, The Saartjie Baartman Centre, a shelter for abused women and their children, is calling for greater recognition of the extent of the problem, the impact violence and abuse is having on individuals and the urgent need for intervention in the lives of at-risk women.
“Violence and victimisation is an everyday occurrence in our society, so often starting in our homes and expanding into our communities. Many of the women who come to the Centre have been abused more than once in their lifetime,” says Shaheema McLeod, Director of the Centre.
One resident staying at the Centre, whose identity cannot be revealed, says; “We were married for a month and I fell pregnant with my daughter, and that’s where it all happened, where the drugs came in, where the abuse started. I just thought that everything was normal, because my mom was also abused by my dad.” After repeated beatings, she sought the assistance from the shelter’s social workers, moving into the emergency accommodation offered; “I said that my husband will come look for us, I needed to get away.”
The most valuable outcome for *Stacey (not her real name) has been the opportunity to build a better relationship with her daughter, with whom she says she now has a strong mother-daughter bond. Stacey now has a job and is confident that she knows how to deal with her ex-husband if he resurfaces in her life, “Saartjie Baartman changed my whole life,” she says.
“Addressing years of victimisation and an entrenched culture of gender-based violence requires not only safe accommodation, but counselling, job skills training and parenting workshops too,” says McLeod. In response to the growing need for these services, the Centre has launched Help #ChangeHerStory to fund crucial interventions in the lives of vulnerable women.
The campaign is rallying corporate sponsors as well as the public to pledge their support to assist women and their children who have experienced abuse and violence. Through a crowdfunding page, www.thundafund.com/project/changeherstory, South Africans can help to #ChangeHerStory in incremental but important ways – from sponsoring a skills workshop to providing meals for a week’s stay.
In South Africa, three women die every day at the hands of their intimate partners, and it is estimated that a woman is raped every 13 minutes. The abuse and violence often starts at an early age, with one in five children experiencing sexual violence before the age of 18.
“At the Saartjie Baartman Centre, we house upwards of 100 women and their children at a time, as well as seeing numerous live-out clients for counselling. Women generally stay for a period of 16 weeks, during which we assist with childcare and job skills training – empowering them to become economically as well as emotionally independent,” says McLeod.
Thundafund page: https://www.thundafund.com/project/changeherstory
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 447 1082 / 072 930 4412
On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod