National Shelter Movement SA
Identifying challenges in securing government funding for women’s shelters
In South Africa, there is no national directive on the distribution of funds to shelters. Each provincial Department of Social Development is responsible for deciding how to disburse funds and if shelters are to receive any grants. If funds are made available for shelters, the Department usually stipulates what those funds can be used for (i.e. food, admin, staff salaries, etc.). Consequently, some shelters receive money for housing residents (known as bed funding), others receive program funding that covers a social worker’s salary or administrative costs, and others may get funding for all their needs. For instance, the Western Cape provincial Department of Social Development allocates bed funds to the amount of R30/person/day for all registered shelters in the province.
Overall, women’s shelters are inadequately resourced and government funding is not nearly enough to keep these shelters running. Many shelters are facing closure at a time when violence against women has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa.
THE NATIONAL SHELTER MOVEMENT SERVICES
The National Shelter Movement of South Africa was established to be the united voice on sheltering women and their children affected by gender based violence. We are an umbrella organisation that is committed to helping women’s shelters throughout the country network and build a collective voice for the protection and safety of women and children. As such we broker relationships between government and shelters (at provincial and national levels), and host workshops to help shelter leaders improve their operational capacity.
We are currently focusing our efforts on the following activities:
Organising provincial capacity building workshops for shelter coordinators. The purpose of these workshops is to help shelter leaders meet each other, network and strengthen partnerships; and to equip shelter managers in conducting their respective duties by giving them the legal and practical information and skills.
Facilitating meetings with shelter managers, their board of directors, and their Department of Social Development co-ordinators. The aim of these meetings is to strengthen government partnerships with the shelters and to foster open communication.
Forming Women’s Shelter Movements in all South African provinces. We believe that when the shelters come together they are able to strengthen their collective voice and achieve their goals together. This is still an on-going process and chapters of the Women’s Shelter Movement only exist in some provinces.
We want to ensure that that all women’s shelters in South Africa are properly registered and adhere to a standard code of conduct and operation. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to put this goal into practice at this point but we do consult with unregistered shelters and advise them on what steps to take to become registered.
CHALLENGES IN WORKING WITH GOVERNMENT
Since 2009, the National Shelter Movement (NSA) of South Africa has been working with national government to try and secure more, and consistent, funding for women’s shelters. Unfortunately this has not been a successful endeavour.
By securing funding from the national government, the NSA would be able to:
- Train our unskilled Provincial representatives, shelter managers, and shelter staff
- Better implement the goals of the National Shelter Movement in each province.
- Have our executives and meet on a more regular basis, and have them pay more regular site visits to the shelters.
By successfully fulfilling these objectives the NSA will gain credibility and authority.
However, the NSA does partner with the National Department of Social Development and Welfare on other issues. Representatives from the NSA have been asked to speak at National and International Summits on women’s shelter and gender-based violence; they have been involved in the formation of numerous National policy documents (such as the “Shelter Strategy”); and they have been invited to attend the National VEP Forum management meetings.
Although the NSA is working on strengthening the partnership with government there are many challenges along the way. Telephone calls, emails, and letters to government officials are usually not answered, meetings are denied, and excuses are made as to why they can’t financially support the organisation. It is a frustrating exercise but an important partnership to nurture. We need to enhance, consolidate, and develop the partnerships with government in order to better promote the National Shelter Movement.
Finally, we believe that in order to secure funds from government in the future, shelters must collaborate and unify their efforts, and we must improve our program credibility. Moreover, we need to ensure that our provincial representatives are better skilled and that the Women’s Shelter Movements are in place and functioning well. This will help use improve on service delivery and strengthen the credibility of the National Shelter Movement position.