We want same support Covid-19 has — Powa

Karabo Ledwaba Journalist
Legal Advisor Tebogo Mashota
Legal Advisor Tebogo Mashota
Image: Supplied

Gender-based violence interventions and programmes should be funded at a similar capacity as the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was the sentiment at the revival launch of People Against Women’s Abuse (Powa) legal department yesterday.

The department which helps survivors of abuse with legal advice and support when opening cases and applying for protection orders had been closed for over two years because of no funding.

“Gender-based violence, like Covid-19, has been declared a pandemic but there is not enough support. We want the same amount of support that Covid-19 has got,” said Powa legal adviser Tebogo Mashota.

The organisation, which has now secured R3.5m in funding, will be able to run the department for about three years.

She said since they have reopened three months ago, they have seen 150 women who requested services. 

Legal Manager Disemelo Tlali said they aim to provide quality women-centred legal services. 

“We have a survivor-centred approach and strive for a safe and equal society intolerant of all forms of violence against women and girls, where we are treated with respect and dignity and our rights are promoted.

“SA has some of the highest rates of GBV in the world and the legal department is critical to ensuring women receive the justice and security they deserve. Its importance cannot be overemphasised,” said Tlali. 

Powa has been funded by Ford.

Magistrate Nicola Olivier from the Johannesburg court said the legal system often frustrates women.

“Some of the women come and they are not legally represented by a lawyer, some come without any proof of abuse like a medical record or voice recordings,” she said.

Olivier said some women are deterred by police from opening criminal cases and they are only able to turn to the courts with a civil matter which allows them to provide for a protection order. Therefore support such as Powa's legal department is necessary for helping survivors feel comfortable and not lose hope. 

“This is what we call secondary abuse because the infrastructure and procedures are not easy. SAPS might not stamp a document and this means everyone has to come back to court and there are postponements for various reasons,” said Olivier.

Jeanine De Weet,  a domestic violence court manager at the court, said she sympathises with survivors of abuse because she was in an abusive marriage for 14 years. She uses her past experience to help women who are in need of the court's services. 

“I know what it is like to be abused for nine months of your entire pregnancy. Not just a klap, but being beaten so badly that you have to be hospitalised,” she said.

She eventually left her husband and took her four children to safety.

“Being abused made me lose my identity of who I was as a woman. Leaving meant I had to make sacrifices for myself and my children and I had to learn to forgive myself,” she said.

Women in need of Powa's  services can contact them on 011-642-4345.

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