Collaboration across different government departments is critical in the battle against gender-based violence (GBV).
Recent civil society efforts to work with the government to address GBV demonstrate both the challenges and opportunities provided by such collaboration.
In case anybody needs reminding how serious a problem GBV is in SA, a World Health Organisation study estimated that the rate of women murdered in SA (9,6 per 100,000) was five times higher than the global average.
Crime statistics released by the police highlighted a 7,7% increase in the number of women killed between the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 reporting periods.
In a recent project, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation collaborated with the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) to find ways of strengthening violence prevention through the community work programme.
The project involved working with different stakeholders in developing training material and supporting 160 participants, from four sites across Gauteng.
The activities reaffirmed how there is no single, underlying cause of GBV and that efforts to prevent it require multifaceted interventions, by multiple-stakeholders, at multiple levels.
In this project, the need for more meaningful stakeholder and intergovernmental collaboration was highlighted in a number of ways.
For example, when discussing cases of GBV with victim empowerment officers at police stations in Tembisa and Orange Farm, it emerged that many cases of GBV, particularly assault, occurred towards month end or payday.
This highlighted potential conflicts around money – perhaps the lack thereof or how it is spent.
However, many cases also highlighted issues of power imbalances and gender inequality, in which victims of GBV were often younger women who were financially dependent on their partners. This financial dependence has social and historical components.
While many young women reported these cases of violence, there were instances in which their financial dependence contributed to cases being dropped against partners, perhaps due to fears of losing financial support.
These cases highlighted how punitive or criminal approaches to GBV, by themselves, were not effective, and required more holistic, interdepartmental interventions.
The project highlighted a good example of multiple-stakeholder collaboration, in which local representatives from the department of justice organised monthly stakeholder meetings to focus on topics pertaining to the justice system and local magistrate court.
These meetings were attended by the police, social development and local stakeholders. However, outside of this space, local stakeholders reported how it was often difficult to secure the participation of representatives from departments.
Furthermore, events held by local government departments, such as the department of social development, were sporadic and poorly planned and attended.
These difficulties with meaningful stakeholder engagement, particularly interdepartmental, were also noted and thought to stem from a policy level.
The overarching framework that could address many social-economic-historical and political challenges is that of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030.
When analysing the strategic plans (2015-2019) or outcomes delivery agreements of various government departments, the NDP outcomes are mentioned in a superfluous manner and fail to recognise the need to jointly plan and collaborate with other government departments in order to achieve these outcomes.
Intergovernmental or interdepartmental collaboration should be enforced through the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act of 2005, responsibility for which was initially held by the department of planning, monitoring, and evaluation.
However, with the act and role of facilitating intergovernmental relations being handed to Cogta, it appears that these relations or collaborations have been limited to Cogta's mandate of facilitating collaboration towards improving local service delivery.
While dealing wth GBV is not an easy task, it is hoped that the government, business, civil society and citizens will reexamine this issue and find new ways of working together in an effort to deal with the factors that underlie GBV and other socio-economic-historical issues.
This opinion piece was originally published in the Sowetan.