Centre tackles gender-based violence

Social worker Gadija Davids lit a candle in memory of all women who have lost their lives through their intimate partners

While Women’s Month is about celebrating the achievements of women in the country, it should also serve to highlight gender-based violence and the impact it has on individuals and the community.

So said Shaheema McLeod, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.

Ms McLeod spoke at the centre’s community open day, which was held on Tuesday August 1, to mark the start of Women’s Month.

The aim of the open day was to showcase the services it offers to victims of violence.

These include safe accommodation, counselling, substance abuse treatment, job skills training and childcare.

Its latest service offering – the substance abuse treatment unit – has been operational now for one year, and Ms McLeod is particularly proud of its success rate.

Some abused women turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to escape, but one cannot take your child with you to a substance abuse treatment centre.

At Saartjie Baartman, children are welcomed, however.

Ms Mcleod said they had noticed over the years that some women coming to the centre clearly had substance abuse problems.

“Usually such women would be asked to leave, as they are a risk of safety to others. Most facilities fall short, because mothers will not respond to treatment if she does not know if her children are safe. Here their children are housed safely. The programme has worked phenomenally well. We have a success rate of 65%,” Ms Mcleod said.

Statistics show that on an average day in South Africa, three women will die at the hands of her intimate partner.

This is five times higher than the global average.

It is also estimated that every 17 seconds a woman is raped, with 40% of men admitting to hitting their partner.

Ms McLeod said women need to know where to seek help when they are threatened and victimised.

“We are fighting a war against women – there are daily casualties and long-lasting trauma,” she added.

Over the past 17 years of its existence, the centre’s capacity has increased to house an average of 100 women and children.

During the open day proceedings, those who attended were also given an opportunity to light a candle in memory of women who have lost their lives at the hands of their intimate partners.

Women who need assistance can contact the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children at 021 633 5287 or visit its website www.saartjiebaartmancentre.co.za