The economic cost of gender inequality
The inextricable link between gender-based violence (GBV) and economic vulnerability means that economic empowerment of vulnerable women is a crucial element of any work to reduce GBV in a community. This is particularly the case in a country like South Africa with one of the worst rates of violence against women and children in the world, says Bongiwe Ndondo, executive director of Hlanganisa Institute for Development Southern Africa.
“The World Health Organisation report stating that SA has one of the worst rates of violence against women and children in the world is proved true by our newspaper headlines daily,” says Ndondo.
The fund, the culmination of two decades of experience of work to build the resilience of the region’s most vulnerable women, supports community organisations that assist women to build social and economic resilience through small-scale social enterprises to build their social and economic resilience.
Too costly to ignore
In the forward to a 2014 KPMG/Sonke Gender Justice report titled Too costly to ignore – violence against women in South Africa, Bafana Khumalo, Sisonke Msimang and Katie Bollbach of Sonke Gender Justice write: We see the human cost of gender-based violence every day, but having a calculation of the national economic cost will serve as an important tool in our policy and advocacy efforts to end the suffering and injustice of this violence on a national level. We now know that, using a conservative estimate, gender-based violence costs South Africa between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion per year – or between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP annually. We’ve learned that individuals and families continue to bear the greatest proportion of costs due to GBV.”
Poverty and GBV
In South Africa, several pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of women have been passed since 1995. South Africa’s National Gender-based Violence and Femicide Strategic Plan, 2020 – 2030, argues that empowering women economically is a critical step in decreasing women’s vulnerability to violence. Responding to and preventing GBV requires economic autonomy for women, enabling them to leave abusive relationships.
Within marginalised groups, women are disproportionately likely to be affected by poverty and economic exclusion. An Oxfam report, titled Reclaiming Power: Womxn’s Work and Income Inequality in South Africa points out that black women are the lowest earners, more likely to work in underpaid service positions such as housework, childcare and community services.
GBV leaves already marginalised women even more vulnerable on both human and economic levels. Women exposed to partner violence have shown higher work absenteeism, lower productivity, and lower earnings than peers that are not.
Poverty and lack of economic opportunities among other factors, make men more likely to engage in violence and substance abuse, increasing the risk of GBV. The World Bank says that high levels of inequality act as a brake on poverty reduction, with poverty consistently highest among black South Africans, the less educated, the unemployed, female-headed households, large families, and children. Poverty remains concentrated in previously disadvantaged areas. The role of skills and labour market factors have grown in importance in explaining poverty and inequality. This suggests poor prospects of eliminating poverty by 2030 as envisaged in the National Development Plan.
The impact of Covid-19
Socio-economic vulnerability of women has worsened during Covid-19. Early in the pandemic, the International Labour Organisation predicted that measures to curb the spread of the disease would disproportionately affect women workers. In South Africa, data suggests that under the strict lockdown conditions imposed in April 2020, two-thirds of the three million people who lost their jobs were women.
How Hlanganisa is advancing the fight against GBV and for gender equality
Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa is committed to achieving the cultural, social and structural changes needed for full realisation of rights and freedoms by all. The organisation provides grant making, capacity enhancement plus networking and partner opportunities for socially marginalised and excluded people in order to amplify their voice, claim their rights and hold leaders accountable.
Hlanganisa’s focus on grassroots support is based on significant need. South Africa has a world class Constitution that affords all a set of fundamental human rights and for improved quality of life of all citizens. Despite some notable achievements, South Africa has not made the ideals of the Constitution a reality of millions of citizens who suffer limited access to basic services and needs, as well as poverty, inequality and various forms of race, class and gender oppression. Community-based organizations in peri-urban and rural contexts are central to enabling communities to access state services and hold government to account. However, they operate without much support from government. Many organisations and their communities are increasingly under threat due to factors including limited funding sources, job cuts and declining welfare support. This is also the case around gender-based interventions.
Hlanganisa’s Joint Gender Fund
Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa established the Joint Gender Fund (JGF) in 2008. The JGF is a funding mechanism through which Hlanganisa has, over the years, been able to strengthen community level GBV responses.
The basket fund emerged from a commitment to enhance the impact of donor funding to civil society in the field of GBV in South Africa. Through the JGF, Hlanganisa seeks to strengthen the capacity of CBOs and NGOs to implement GBV focused programmes and thus amplify the voice of ordinary women, girls and community leaders in combating GBV.
Key approaches include sub granting, capacity enhancement and strategic sector convenings. The fund also supports emergency grants which are aimed at supporting unplanned but strategic sector priorities and sometimes tied to urgent legal, medical and psycho-social support needs for women as a means to contribute to building their coping and resilience in times of acute GBV-related distress and economic vulnerability.
The vision of the Joint Gender Fund is a strengthened sector that is able to respond to GBV in the context of socio-economic inequality addressing key intersections and empowering women and girls. The Fund also seeks to enhance leadership and provide funding for innovative programmes that address the drivers of violence against women and girls in ways that respond to and transform the underlying causes.
In addition, the fund promotes improved donor and other stakeholder coordination which has been shown to be an attractive and efficient way of funding local initiatives. Through leveraging synergies, greater collaboration and increased cost sharing, the fund has been able to drive cost efficiency and cohesion in the GBV response.
Over the years, the fund has been successful in building leadership and supporting innovative gender transformative programmes that address the underlying cause of GBV and intersectionality such as poverty, disability, economic dependence and food security.
Hlanganisa’s projects include:
Through this project, the Joint Gender Fund is sub granting community-based organisations tackling GBV, to better understand and serve the unique needs of women living with a disability and faced with GBV. The project has also developed capacity building resources aimed at equipping organisations to implement community level responses as well as enhance the quality of services provided to the communities that our grantees serve.
Many mining organisations struggle to find high impact innovative programmes for their corporate social responsibility and social labour plans. Hlanganisa’s extensive experience in the sector ensures the selection of strategic programmes with high impact, high visibility and high return on investment.
The Join Gender Fund prioritises providing resources to enhance, strengthen or accelerate the work of community-based organisations (CBOs) involved in combating GBV. Under this programme, a CBO is defined as “a loosely structured organisation that usually consists only of one tier of staff/volunteers that conduct all the business of the organisation such as delivering services and conducting fundraising”.
The Joint Gender Fund acknowledges that GBV intersects with many other social ills, and that it must be seen within the broader context of gender equality and promoting and protecting the rights of all women. In order to increase its reach, the cross-cutting project has sought to mainstream GBV into other programme focal areas – ensuring that the programmes, although not focussing on GBV, adopt a gender lens that is protective of women. The cross-cutting project is currently supporting seven organisations in the area of migration, sexual orientation and gender identity, food security and disability
Through this project, the Joint Gender Fund supports advocating for institutional or policy changes, or more effective implementation, in various areas of society to advance prevention of and response to violence against women.
This campaign is implemented in partnerships with Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) and Tshwaranang Legal Advice Centre.
The project is aimed at developing innovative ways for financing GBV prevention and mitigation programmes and services.
Communities against Gender Based Violence
Intersections between GBV and Disability
Hlanganisa has been instrumental in advocating the SRHR of women with disability through support to community organisations working with GBV and disability and ensuring the mainstreaming of one in the other. Hlanganisa offers support to organisations and builds the capacity of disabled persons umbrella organisations in order to build sustainability.
Domestic workers and GBV
GBV and mining