Centre needs help to #ChangeHerStory

Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, Shaheema McLeod, has appealed to businesses and the public to support their campaign, called Help #ChangeHerStory #ChangeHerStory.

The saying that if you empower a woman, you empower a nation, rings true for the staff of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children – they have seen first-hand how shattered lives have been transformed thanks to the work they do.

Sadly though, there is a growing need for the services offered by this shelter for abused women and children – so much so, that it has now embarked on a fundraising campaign, called Help #ChangeHerStory.

And if you Help #ChangeHerStory, you would help change the lives of her children as well – especially during Child Protection Week which was launched on Monday.

The need to highlight abuse against women and children has become even more pertinent, as the Western Cape mourns the 19 cases of child murders reported since the beginning of this year.

Through the campaign, the centre is calling for greater recognition of the extent of the problem, as the impact violence and abuse have on individuals is significant, and there is an urgent need for intervention in the lives of women who are at risk.

Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, Shaheema McLeod, said raising awareness about the about violence and abuse, is not enough if there are no processes in place to deal with it and to bring perpetrators to book.

“Yes, we’ve seen the people’s outcry. People are sick of it. If there’s no political will, politicians just respond when things are reported in the media, instead of making funds available so that agencies like us can do the work.

“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,” Ms McLeod said.

She added that South Africans can Help #ChangeHerStory in “incremental but important ways – from sponsoring a skills workshop to providing meals for a week’s stay.

Marking Child Protection Week, which runs until Friday June 2, the centre also highlighted the crucial role that family plays in protecting children.

“Children are very trusting and often powerless to speak up about the abuse and violence that they experience. It is our responsibility as adults to fight for their protection, their safety and their right to security.

“Unfortunately, the people who should be trustworthy can be the perpetrators. The problem is societal, it is about awareness and attitudes – these tragedies show that abuse and violence work in cycles – a damaged adult can become one who damages children,” Ms McLeod said.

She added that a number of factors, including fragmented family life, rape culture, substance abuse, economic depression and entrenched violence within communities, directly impacts the rate of violence against children.

“In order to effect change, we need to intervene in the lives of moms and dads, uncles and aunts. Parenting skills training is key, as is the provision of safe spaces for mothers to come with their children when they are under threat,” Ms McLeod said.

Apart from the average number of 100 women and children who stay at the centre at any given time, the Saartjie Baartman Centre also offers counselling to live-out clients. “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,” Ms McLeod said.

If you would like to contribute towards the Help #ChangeHerStory campaign, to assist with funding to expand the centre’s services, the public and companies can pledge through a crowdfunding page, at www.thundafund.com/project/changeherstory or visit its website at www.saartjiebaartmancentre.org.za/donate/

Established 18 years ago, The Saartjie Baartman Centre has assisted more than 190 000 victims of crime and violence. Over and above offering long and short-term safe shelter, the centre offers a number of programmes that address gender-based violence in society, the economic disempowerment of women and child exposure to violence.