Help for substance abuse

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has seen a 65 percent incr-ease in the number of women and children from the Cape Flats approaching it for help in the past three years.

The centre was established in Manenberg in 1999, and it has helped more than 180 000 abused women and children. It provides short and long-term shelter, legal assistance, training and counselling for adults and children. There is also a crèche.

The centre director, Shaheema McLeod, says violence against women and children continues to rise, fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse.

The centre is set to launch a new wing for women with substance dependency issues who want to escape abusive and violent relationships.

A donation drive has been launched to kit out the new wing with furniture, bedding and clothing.

“Currently, about 80 percent of the women who seek assistance from us test positive for drugs. Our intake profile is changing, the women are very young, some barely 18 years old, and substance abuse is a big issue; it’s almost expected,” Ms McLeod said.

“Based on our current intake profile, it’s become necessary for the centre to offer a drug in-patient programme to our clients. We are currently looking into securing long-term funding for a separate wing, where we will be able to provide a two-week orientation and detox programme to women before they transfer to a longer-term therapeutic stay,” she said.

“The in-patient programme will go a long way in assisting women survivors of violence in getting back on their feet and fending for themselves.”

One 32-year-old woman at the centre started using tik when she was 16. She moved in with her boyfriend when she was 30, and together the pair took drugs for two years. He often abused her physically and verbally when they argued over drugs. During a row earlier this year, he gave her two black eyes.

The next day, while at a friend’s place, she stood in front of a mirror and looked at herself.

She decided she had had enough and walked to the centre.

She has now been drug free for six months and believes the new wing at the centre will save many women and reunite families.

“I want this place to be built up further, so that they can help these women because drugs destroys many families,” she said.

“Children get taken away from mothers, and women lose their integrity, and end up selling their bodies.”

At the centre, she has done courses in computers, first aid and home-based care. She is now working as a call-centre consultant.

“I am so proud of myself. I can now see my child every weekend, I can give money to my mother, and she sorts my child out. Whenever I look at my child, I ask myself: do I want to lose this again? Every test that I’ve taken here at the centre has been negative, and that is what motivated me to stay clean.”

To find out more about the centre’s work, call 021 633 5287 or email