The official launch was held on 12 May 2007.
Sizakuyenza (an independent, registered NGO) with support from the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC).
The Orphan and Vulnerable Children Network (a network of savings groups which also function as support groups for vulnerable women and children), the Poor People’s Movement (Western Cape) and the Federation of the Urban Poor (Western Cape).
CESVI Cooperation and Development (Italy).
South Africa features scary statistics regarding the vulnerability of women and children: every 6 hours a woman is killed by an intimate partner; every 6 minutes a child is abused; and every day 50% of all women at ante-natal clinics in the townships test positive for HIV. Moreover, as the mortality rate of young women skyrockets, there are an ever-growing number of child-headed households. It is in this context that Sizakuyenza, which runs the Safe Home in Philippi (Cape Town), supports city- and nation-wide community networks, in order to stimulate and develop locally-generated solutions to problems affecting the most vulnerable women and children in South Africa.
Though gender-based violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS affect families from every income bracket in South Africa, these problems are especially pervasive among the poor – including much of Cape Town’s black, Xhosa-speaking population. It has been a notable omission, therefore, that up until Sizakuyenza (and funding partner CESVI) opened the Philippi Safe Home, there was no facility really equipped to host Xhosa-speaking clients. Vulnerable women from Philippi and the surrounding areas were previously referred by the police to shelters in more formal areas, and often did not have access to counselling, support, and treatment in their mother tongue. That said, although the Philippi shelter was built in response to this critical need, it is open to all women from the Cape Metro, including those from non-Xhosa-speaking areas.
A visible sign of hope within Philippi and the surrounding townships, the Sizakuyenza Safe Home is a community solution dedicated to supporting vulnerable women and children in South Africa. Clients are typically victims of gender-based violence and physical abuse, who flee their homes to gain temporary protection from the ongoing threat of cruelty. The shelter can accommodate 8-10 women and their children for the standard three-month period – it is, of course, necessary to shelter children with their mothers because safe, temporary lodging (often with extended family members) can be difficult to arrange in times of crisis.
Upon arrival at the Sizakuyenza Safe Home, potential clients have consultations with counsellors from the Khanyisa Community Centre (also run by Sizakuyenza and housed within the same building). They are assessed and accepted into the Safe Home based on the urgency and severity of their needs, as well as the capacity of the institution to address those needs. Since this is a middle security institution, high-risk cases are sent to more protected facilities that are less visible and further away.
Once admitted, clients are offered room and board, child care, counselling, basic medical services and other urgent post-traumatic care. They are also offered vocational training to promote economic independence, empowerment and community reintegration. Employed clients are encouraged to continue working and contribute (minimally) toward the cost of their residency at the safe home. Additionally, everyone must take part in house maintenance through the rotation of cooking, cleaning and babysitting. The day-to-day activities of the shelter are facilitated by a house mother who reports to the Sizakuyenza Coordinator.
One unique feature of the Sizakuyenza Safe Home is the support generated by the Orphan and Vulnerable Children Network (OVC), an association of women from Philippi and the surrounding townships who use the ritual of daily savings to support each other economically and mobilise around issues of gender-based violence, child abuse, and HIV/AIDS. Through frequent meetings and neighbourhood discussions, network members collect information about vulnerable women in their communities and promote awareness of the services available through the Khanyisa Community Centre and (in more serious cases) the Safe Home.
Additionally, a number of informal shelters have been built by the OVC network to provide pre- and post-shelter housing – these prefab shacks serve as immediate, emergency care facilities for vulnerable women and children while more permanent arrangements are made with Sizakuyenza, and as second-stage housing for community reintegration upon completion of their time at the shelter. The network of informal shelters frees up space within the Safe Home, allowing new clients to begin their residency, while still monitoring and supporting previous clients in their recovery. Moreover, the staff of the Sizakuyenza Safe Home (as well as the Khanyisa Community Centre) frequently liaises with the OVC network members who run the informal shelters (often from their own homes), improving care for vulnerable women and children throughout the community.
The Sizakuyenza Safe Home is fully operational and admitted its first 3 clients in June 2007.
PROJECTED OUTCOMESThe Sizakuyenza Safe Home (and the related OVC network) will serve as an active community answer to the interrelated problems of gender-based violence, child abuse, and HIV/AIDS, increasing its public profile as a reliable resource that provides access to health-related services for vulnerable women and children.