Community organisations help women break free of abuse

Written by Gabisile Ngcobo

After years of fearing for her life, a Free State woman escaped her abusive partner – thanks to the support she received from a community organisation.

“He was verbally abusive and said he would kill me,” Dieketseng Manyokho recalls.

The 32-year-old mother from Thaba 'Nchu is one of many South African women who have endured gender-based violence (GBV) at the hands of the men they love.

Even though she knew she deserved better, Manyokho could not leave her boyfriend because she was jobless and financially dependent on him. “I had to tolerate all the pain and him crushing my spirit so that I could put food on the table.”

With no one to turn to, she stayed in the destructive relationship.

“I often wondered what would become of me because he always said he was going to kill me and that he had people watching my every move,” she says.

In 2020, desperate to break free, she finally reached out to a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Batho Ba Lerato Advice Centre, for help.

“The centre was able to arrange counselling for me, help me a get a protection order and apply for child maintenance. They taught me how to be a woman who can stand on her own feet.”

Manyokho believes the centre gave her a new lease on life and she is starting to feel like herself again after enduring three years of abuse.

She already has a job lined up for her at the organisation after she finishes a security guard course that they are paying for.

“My life has changed. I no longer cry myself to sleep or worry about his threats. I feel empowered and proud to be a survivor of abuse.”

Manyokho now uses her voice to encourage other women to speak up and seek help.

Funding for GBVF organisations

Batho Ba Lerato Advice Centre Programme Manager Lerato Moeng says NGOs and civil society organisations (CS­­Os) cannot survive without funding.

Her organisation received a R300 000 grant from the almost R100 million allocated from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) fund to organisations that help victims of GBV and other crimes.

Batho Ba Lerato, which opened its doors in 2000, provides counselling and legal advice for GBV survivors and support groups for caregivers of people with mental and physical disabilities. The centre also provides emergency shelter for women and children and caters for child-headed households; people affected by HIV and Aids; and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual community.

According to Moeng, women often do not know where to go when their partners abuse them, while many withdraw cases at police stations because they depend on the men financially.

She says that is why Batho Ba Lerato prioritises GBV cases, even though the lack of funding is a challenge.

Moeng says that sometimes there are no funds to help the women who have received care and counselling get the skills and help they need to provide for themselves and their children.

The R300 000 was a blessing, she says. “Before that funding, we couldn’t even go out to communities or train and talk to men and women about GBV issues,” she says, adding that more people are visiting their centre after outreach workshops were held in the community.

They are now collaborating with the University of Free State’s Law Clinic, which is helping finalise 25 divorce cases free of charge.

She says she cannot wait to see the organisation grow to serve more people in the Thaba 'Nchu community. “We need to be able to sustain ourselves and train more survivors for them to stand on their own.”

Mentoring and funding for NGOs

The Department of Social Development allocated R90 million in funding to CSOs that were selected to implement GBV and femicide programmes in communities across all provinces in 2021. A further R5 million was allocated for a mentorship programme for emerging CSOs.

The National Development Agency (NDA) was appointed to implement the programme.

By April 2022, the NDA has paid around R67 million to CSOs; 296 received just over R40 million in the first round of payments, and nearly R27 million was paid to 189 organisations in the second round. Second-round payments are only made once the  CSOs have met certain conditions to ensure they properly carry out GBV services.

For more information about the NDA, call 011 018 5500 or visit www.nda.org.za.

  • If you are a victim of abuse, call the GBV command centre at 0800 428 428 or send (PLEASE CALL ME) to *120* 7867#
     
  • If you need assistance from Batho Ba Lerato, call 073 406 8284.