Eastern Cape shelter for abused women now offers refuge for more than three months

Dr Lesley Ann Foster, director of Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, says the Covid-19 lockdown has led to more violence against women. As such, places of safety are now housing abused women for longer.
Dr Lesley Ann Foster, director of Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, says the Covid-19 lockdown has led to more violence against women. As such, places of safety are now housing abused women for longer.
Image: YOUTUBE

Mindful that victims of gender-based violence may struggle to find refuge, an Eastern Cape organisation is now offering abused women shelter from their abusers for more than three months.

Normally, Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, which works with marginalised and abused women in the province, accommodates victims for three months.

But with South Africa under lockdown, Masimanyane’s Dr Lesley-Ann Foster said their places of safety were now housing abused women for longer.

“Under these circumstances they can stay for longer on negotiation because it is difficult for people to go to their homes and to make alternative arrangements.”

All their centres had isolation facilities, she said, to ensure women who might be infected with Covid-19 did not infect others.

We had to create an isolation space in our shelter, which we have successfully done. The regulations mean anyone coming into the shelter has to go into isolation

“We had to create an isolation space in our shelter, which we have successfully done. The regulations mean anyone coming into the shelter has to go into isolation. We can’t just put them with the others because they might be carrying Covid-19.”

The extension by Masimanyane comes as Lifeline SA announced in a virtual conference this week they were receiving on average 8,000 calls a day from desperate victims since the lockdown started.

President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned GBV in his last address to the nation, and activists have previously said domestic violence had reached crisis levels since the lockdown started on March 27.

Lifeline SA CEO Molefi Takalo said they had partnered with Carling Black Label’s #NoExcuse Campaign to assist victims across South Africa.

The lockdown has brought about some serious emotional abnormalities because suddenly people are confined at home and some men cannot argue their way out and usually resort to violence

“The lockdown has brought about some serious emotional abnormalities because suddenly people are confined at home and some men cannot argue their way out and usually resort to violence.”

Carling Black Label’s brand director, Arné Rust, said their WhatsApp initiative, which victims can use to get help, was aimed at assisting victims to be “brave” and give them a way to get help.

“Since the implementation of the lockdown around the globe, cases of gender-based violence have increased drastically. The number of calls going to Lifeline from both men and women went up by 500% from March to last month.”

The WhatsApp line gives victims of abuse, who could be men or women, a way to get counselling silently, Rust said.

“It also puts men who are struggling to be their inner champion in touch with a mentor, someone to talk to, so that they can start on the journey to be champion men. All of this can now happen silently.”

By print deadline Eastern Cape police had not responded to questions on the number of gender-based violence cases reported in the province during lockdown.


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