Breakthrough for casualties of abuse

People opposing women abuse, an organisation that supports and shelters survivors of abuse, has found a way to stop survivors returning to abusive partners by providing housing for them.

People opposing women abuse, an organisation that supports and shelters survivors of abuse, has found a way to stop survivors returning to abusive partners by providing housing for them.

Delphine Serumaga, pictured, director of Powa, said 1st for Women Insurance Brokers has helped them to buy a block of flats in Bellevue, Johannesburg. It is currently being converted into comfortable homes for women who have shed abusive relationships and are ready to take the first step to independence.

The R2million homes will accommodate six women with their children or 12 women for a year.

"We are very excited about this project," said Serumaga.

"We believe it is an exit point from the cycle where survivors find themselves going back to abusive environments because they feel they have nowhere else to go.

"While sheltering services are for a shorter term, these apartments will bring some stability to survivors and give them a chance to stand on their own feet again."

Powa is now looking for donations to furnish and renovate the apartments, to be launched in March next year.

Carrie Shelver, programme co-ordinator at Powa, said the project will help survivors make the transition from the safe havens of the organisation's short-term and other emergency shelters in Gauteng to being fully independent.

Plans to extend the project to other provinces are under discussion.

"Starting anew, especially coming from an abusive and violent background, is daunting financially, psychologically and emotionally.

"All too often, women return to abusive partners because they lack the financial independence to make it on their own.

"Then there are those who, although they don't return to their violent and abusive pasts, are unable to rise above their circumstances because they are forced to rent accommodation in less-than-desirable, high-risk areas due to the shortage of affordable housing options.

"Through this bridging project we hope to break the cycle, reduce the chances of survivors returning to abusive environments," Shelver said.

Houses will be on a rent-geared-to-income basis for a period of a year, Shelver said.

She said survivors will be equipped with skills in financial planning, parenting and household management.

They will also be equipped with the emotional and psychological tools needed to end dependence on abusive partners.

"The ultimate goal is to empower women on every level to survive on their own, to be independent and entirely self-supporting," said Shelver.

Robyn Farrell, MD and trustee of the Ist for Women Insurance Trust, said the facility will have recreational and social common areas to encourage residents to interact and socialise in safe surroundings.

She said the grounds will offer opportunities to learn property maintenance and engage in therapeutic activities such as gardening.

"The project will provide those who are committed to becoming independent and ending the violence in their lives with a real and meaningful chance for a better life," Farrell said.

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