Shelter from the abuse storm: Josina Machel fights back
The daughter of Graça and Samora Machel broke down as she spoke about her ordeal with domestic violence
“My abuser was the one who took me to the hospital. He beat me so badly I lost my eye.”
Josina Machel, daughter of Graça and Samora Machel, spoke about her abuse at the hands of her partner at the Costing of Domestic Violence Shelters report launch at Glen Hove Auditorium in Johannesburg on Monday.
The report – by National Shelter Movement of SA, the Heinrich Böell Foundation, the Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa and the European Union – proposed a more equitable costing framework for abused women’s shelters.
Machel, who now lives in SA, told how she was dating a wealthy Maputo businessman between 2012 and 2015. She said that in 2015 he beat her so badly she was blinded in her right eye.
She broke down as she spoke about the ordeal of having to go between the police and the hospital to lay a charge of domestic violence.
“I ran between departments for days because I learned that the hospital had lost my file, and then the police had lost my file.
“I come from a family that was able to give me support, I was able to travel and fight for myself. I thought: if it was that painful and horrendous for me, what happens to millions of women who are abused who don’t have the care I do?”
Machel’s boyfriend, Rofino Licuco, was convicted of the assault February 21 2017. He was fined and received a suspended sentence.
The ordeal led her to start Kuhluka Movement, a nonprofit organisation aimed at combating the violation of rights of women.
“I thought, what can I do to help? Perhaps my duty is to tell my story and to advocate for the rights of abused women here in South Africa. [My duty is] to advocate for better structure [at shelters for abused women].”
“Gender-based violence is a war … We need a supportive community to act as caring bodies. Unfortunately, our communities are places we [abused women] feel most vulnerable, threatened and scared.”
She said places of safety came in two forms: informal, which could be homes of families and friends or in religious structures. “But the obstacle is stigma. The woman is often made to feel she has done something wrong. These places will often eventually return us to the place we were violated. These spaces are comfortable but unlikely to expose the abuse.”
Then there are formal spaces, shelters, “where treatment is received, where there is empathy and highly specialised individuals who are able to provide proper care”.
Machel was part of the oversight committee whose findings informed the costing of domestic violence shelters report.
“But in some visits to shelters I found overcrowding, [places] I would have to be desperate to go to, lacking the basics. We need to look at legislation, we need to standardise women’s shelters so women receive adequate services and necessary support.”
One in five SA women will experience violence at the hands of at least one of their intimate male partners in the course of her lifetime, according to the report.
Shelters were able to disrupt this violence, but the report, authored by Wits University researcher Lisa Vetten, found “shelter services are not only chronically underfunded … but also highly variable with subsidies by the department of social development differing both within the same province as well as across provinces”.
As an example, Claudia Lopes from the Heinrich Böell Foundation said social development funding could be as little as R9 a day to cover the needs of women and their children in one province and R70 a day in another province. “In one particular province, the department’s subsidy towards all shelter staff was a meagre R600 a month.”
National Shelter Movement head Zubeda Bangor said: “This situation resulted in at least one of our member shelters having to close its doors this year. It is simply not acceptable ... Funding the true costs of sheltering services is an investment in our country’s future.”
The report proposed a new costing framework for women’s shelters considering costings previously done by auditing house KPMG in 2013.
Some of these included: A proposed monthly rate of R7‚223.72 for a woman and two children. At a daily rate, this equates to just slightly more than R84 a woman per day and R76 a child per day;
More adequate client-to-staff ratios such as three housemothers instead of the current practice of two or even one in some provinces;
A proposed monthly subsidy of R3‚840 (based on the national minimum wage of R20 an hour) instead of the provincial allocations of R2‚500 or at worst R600;
A social worker for every 15 people, not every 67 people as is the current ratio.
Vetten said research showed more than half of the women who attended the shelters did not go back.
“Shelters are effective, they produce self-sustaining women who go on to become productive members of society. Children who leave shelters are less likely to repeat the cycle of abuse. But shelters need to adequately provide for women. Most women in shelters are unemployed. They must gain skills to support themselves. Most women come with children, there needs to be adequate childcare. These women need psychosocial counselling, they need paralegal advice, you cannot do all of that for R9 a day.”