Every year by 25 November we are reminded again of the challenges of women and children, that we need to work together to end violence against women and children. A year ago we, at Goedgedacht Trust could not imagine that this year we would lose two colleagues very dear to us to senseless violence. This article we therefore tribute to Maria Isaacs and Lynne Stuart Fox who were both murdered in the first half of this year.
We are again reminded of the importance of addressing the root causes of violence against women and children.
At Goedgedacht we have youth centres who keep children safe on a daily basis (week days and sometimes weekends). As the saying goes prevention is better than cure.
We have child safe guarding measures like doing safety checks (police checks, Child Protection Register, Sexual Offenders Register) for all our staff and permanent volunteers. We also train our centre managers to identify situations where children show signs of abuse. Our Centre Managers work closely with the BIG FIVE stakeholders in the social sector, namely the social worker, police, school principal, municipal councillor and clinic. They will refer children when they notice any suspect behaviour or challenges and also notify their managers. All visitors to our centre must also put their names on a register.
Safety measures at our preschools are even more stringent because we work with little children who cannot talk for themselves. We have discussions with parents when children come into school with many bruises and marks. The school principal reported recently, “it is so wonderful to see the marks disappear over time after an intervention with parents”.
We are very proud of our men’s group drawing older and younger men from farms in the vicinity of Goedgedacht. In the men’s group a safe space is created for men to talk about issues that bother them and worry them. They can talk freely about their relationships and challenges and peer to peer support is given. The men who have been in the men’s group for some time become role models to the younger men and encourage them to be supportive to their partners and the mothers of their children.
In the last year our sports programme with farm sports clubs was revived. We asked about 22 young men what impact the sports programme had on their communities. Of the 22 respondents 10 said that the programme made and(an) impact on fighting incidents in the community (including domestic violence) and 6 said that only sometimes there were less incidents of fighting. The organising and development of sports clubs were done by also focusing on the values of a sportsman and the importance (of)him being an example to other men in the community with his behaviour towards women. The perception amongst men that there were less violence since the sport programme started, might indicate that channelling men’s energy in the right way, leads to a reduction in aggressive behaviour.
We also asked the respondents how they view violence in a relationship. Most said it was always wrong but still a few said that is was sometimes right and only sometimes wrong. It made us aware that we need to have discussions and dialogues on these subjects to change the underlying beliefs in our community that violence between men and women is at times justified. People still laugh when hearing the saying : “Hy slaan die liefde in” (he hits in the love).We will continue to research the impact of the programme and intensify the discussions around relationships and violence.
At Goedgedacht we belief prevention is better than cure. We won’t give up looking for the underlying causes of violence against women and children and finding solutions to these issues.