Vodacom centre to support victims of gender-based violence

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One in four women will experience violence by men, and women are five times more likely to be killed.
One in four women will experience violence by men, and women are five times more likely to be killed.

Vodacom, in partnership with the Department of Social Development, is running a 24-hour national gender-based violence (GBV) command centre during the 21-day national lockdown.

SA’s coronavirus infections continue to soar, with the health department recording two deaths and over a thousand COVID-19 cases, following the first case confirmed three weeks ago.

As SA enters its first day of the three-week nationwide lockdown, which restricts travel, leisure, work and churchgoing, local gender experts and activists have expressed concerns about the potential steep rise in the number of GBV cases.

The rate of GBV in SA is unprecedented. According to the South African Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, SA has one of the highest rates of violence against women on the entire continent, with a rate five times the global average.

One in four women will experience violence by men, and women are five times more likely to be killed.

Last year, Vodacom announced it had invested over R6 million towards the infrastructure set-up and running of the GBV command centre, which employs professional social workers to support survivors of abuse.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer of corporate affairs for Vodacom Group, comments: “For us at Vodacom, we view violence against women as a violation of human rights and the greatest impediment towards gender equality.

“This issue is a social ill of our time that has started reversing the strides made in gender equality since the dawning of our democracy 25 years ago.”

In March 2014, Vodacom and the Department of Social Development Department worked together to launch the GBV centre.

The number 0800 150 150 can be used to report incidents of gender-based violence for urgent response. The centre also has a Skype helpline ‘HelpMeGBV’ for members of the deaf community, an SMS-based help line ‘31531’ to assist people with disabilities and a USSD on *120*7867#.

At a media briefing on Wednesday, police minister Bheki Cele noted his department will increase units that deal with women and child abuse during the lockdown.

“We have noted the fear and the possibility of the escalation of gender-based violence that could come as a result of liquor now being consumed at home. As an extra measure, we have plans in place to beef up our family violence, child protection and sexual offences units to deal with this threat.”

A year ago, the command centre had received more than 300 000 calls and more than 150 000 USSDs and SMSes, showing it is making a meaningful impact on society, noted Vodacom.

“We’d like to appeal to South African men to become change agents and play an active role in ridding our society of gender violence. Gender-based violence requires men to stand up, call out, and address the violent and aggressive behaviour that many women face every day,” adds Netshitenzhe.

Meanwhile, Cell C, in collaboration with Corporate SA, has stepped up efforts to assist government in fighting the pandemic in the country’s most vulnerable communities.

The telco reached out to communities by making donations in the form of hygiene supplies and items that can curb the spread of COVID-19, such as hand sanitisers, soap, gloves and face masks, which are in short supply.

Cell C’s donations have so far supported Ratang Bana, a children’s home and community centre in Tembisa; Phutha Ditshaba, an Alexandra community centre that provides extra lessons for students; Life 4 U Foundation, an organisation that helps feed, clothe and provide free counselling to people in Tembisa; and Tembisa Welfare, an organisation that addresses the problem of lost, abandoned or abused children.

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