Throughout the world, gender-based crimes have been a widespread issue. Attempts have been made in many countries to alleviate the issue, with shelters, support centers, and stricter criminal prosecution against those who commit them. In South Africa, a new campaign is being implemented with the hope of supporting the victims of these crimes.
According to South Africa’s Director General of Social Development, Coceko Phakade, violence against women and children has been a hidden scandal that knows no boundaries, affecting various families from different economic classes. Women have been abused all over the country at surprising levels. At a media briefing this week, Phakade said, "Nationally, over 71 percent of women are sexually abused and with reports that a woman is raped every 26 seconds." Such numbers are shocking, to say the least, and reveal a plague of violence in what would otherwise be considered a safe and stable country.
The South African government has decided it won’t stand for these acts to continue unaddressed, and has begun a campaign to cleanse the country of gender-based crimes and to protect the victims. Throughout the country victim shelters have been opening, alongside Khuseleka One Stop Centers for Victims of Crime and Violence, centers dedicated to providing victims of violence with medical, legal and police services.
Phakade and the Department of Social Development are taking steps further, announcing that they will be starting a pilot program for victim support. This program centers around the opening of a call center with the purpose of providing needed services for victims of gender-based crimes.
This will be a 24/7 call center that victims will be able to phone toll-free. The call center will be dedicated to providing victims of gender-based crimes with support and counseling in the form of psychological aid, referrals for further assistance, and advice on how to avoid more violence. The people working at the center are all trained social workers, prepared to help those who have suffered from trauma.
Support from the command center won’t be solely through the phone. Social workers will be able to direct victims to field workers, medical services, and police. The information gathered through the system may even be used by courts as evidence in criminal cases.
At first the program will be run on a six-month trial basis in select areas throughout South Africa, although the call center and its services can be reached by anyone in the country.
Support for the call center has been provided by the Vodacom Foundation, a mobile solutions company in South Africa that is a major supporter of the usage of mobile technology in the fight for humanitarian causes. Vodacom has paid for up to six months of ICT infrastructure for the new call center.The center will also have the positive side effect of opening jobs for social workers, employing 75 social workers, 65 of whom were not employed prior to the center’s opening.