ORGANISATION OF THE MONTH
Since opening its doors in 1999, the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children (SBCWC) in Manenberg in the Cape Flats has been offering a one-stop support facility for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence and abuse
For two decades, the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has given refuge to survivors of domestic violence
According to SBCWC director, Bernadine Bachar, the centre has assisted over 190 000 people to date. “We operate in an area that has very high crime rates; there’s gangsterism, domestic violence, child abuse and substance abuse all around us, but our motto is ‘violence ends here’”, she shares.
And to prove this, residential programme manager, Dorothea Gertse, oversees the 24hour crisis response shelter – or Residential Programme, as it’s formally known – which is almost always full to capacity. Within this safe space, up to 120 women and children have access to holistic social work and support, which includes free psychosocial care, legal advice, economic development training, substance abuse rehabilitation and early childhood development programmes. Historically, a high percentage of women who leave abusive relationships return to them. Many say they go back due to a lack of finances; as such, the staff at the SBCWC work tirelessly to empower the women at the shelter through accredited skills-training programmes. It is hoped that this training will lead to employment or self-employment, which can not only supply important financial resources to the women but also raise their self-esteem, thereby providing them with the psychological strength to end abusive relationships. In support of such sentiments, the centre recently partnered with MTN to launch a state-of-the-art multimedia computer-training facility.
On the sustenance side, chef Achmat Allie and his deputy, Colette Geduld, are at the forefront of a kitchen strategy designed to ensure that food fills a rehabilitative role, too. “What the chefs present at mealtimes is so much more than just a plate of food – meals become sites of nutritional and emotional healing,” Bernadine explains. She adds that domestic abuse can be isolating because of the shame and stigma attached to it, yet those seeking help at the SBCWC can sit together as a community and know that someone cares. During this time, bonds are formed and renewed. “In addition to three meals, we have four teatimes every day, which allows for a special kind of love and support to be shared,” Bernadine expands.
On the administrative front, financial manager, Shumeeze Johaardien, has the challenging task of keeping the centre economically afloat. Fortunately, the SBCWC receives food donations from Blue Ribbon, Woolworths and the Robin Good Initiative [an organisation that supplies food and other resources to local charities in an attempt to aid them in providing for their communities], and there are also some individual contributions from members of the local community.
Sadly, the centre generally sees more admissions over December and January, which are mostly due to increased economic hardship and a surge in substance abuse over the holidays. In the midst of such stress, Bernadine and her team try to make the festive season special at the SBCWC. The New Year’s Eve braai is especially important. As Bernadine says: “New Year, new start. We celebrate this time of the year to remind members that people care about them; that they are valuable and that, in this context, change is possible.”
SBCWC DIRECTOR, BERNADINE BACHAR.LEFT & RIGHT: SOME OF THE COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES THE CENTRE USES TO RAISE AWARENESS AGAINST ABUSE
SBCWC’S EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT CENTRE HOW YOU CAN HELPThe SBCWC always appreciates donations of baby formula, nappies, toothpaste, toothbrushes, non-perishable food, stationery and cleaning materials. Monetary donations are also welcome and can be made out to:Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and ChildrenFirst National BankBranch code: 201509Account number: 62028179415
THE SBCWC TEAM FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: FINANCIAL MANAGER, SHUMEEZE JOHAARDIEN; DIRECTOR, BERNADINE BACHAR; CHEF ACHMAT ALLIE AND RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMME MANAGER, DOROTHEA GERTSE