Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


GBV costs the country’s GDP over R42 billion annually, report

SA has one of the highest rates of GBV in the world.

As the country officially kicks off its annual 16 Days of Activism today, research laid bare the high price of gender-based violence (GBV): it costs SA’s gross domestic product (GDP) more than R42 billion every year.

SA has one of the highest GBV rates globally

SA has one of the highest rates of GBV in the world and, until now, its economic cost to society has been less documented: from healthcare, implementing GBV programmes, the costs of correctional services, absenteeism resulting from GBV and unemployment.


Audit, tax and advisory service KPMG’s report, Too costly to ignore – the economic impact of gender-based violence in SA, aimed to contribute to a deeper understanding among policy makers, political leaders, NGOs, communities and families of the scale and magnitude of the potential costs of GBV to the country.

“A calculation of the national economic cost will serve as an important tool in our policy and advocacy efforts to end the suffering,” the report noted.

“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.”

Expert weighs in

Based on work done with GBV victims in shelters, gender expert and GBV researcher Lisa Vetten said more than 66% of women in shelters were unemployed, with at least one out of six of those women having completed their matric.

Many drop out in grade 9, with no experience, she said.

“Women who live in abusive homes or even in shelters value their jobs for their reasons, but also to get away from the abuser for the day,” she said.

While it was easy to integrate victims of abuse back into society, it was hard for them to get the support they need, and most of them end up in poverty for the rest of their lives, Vetten said.

Through the #EndDomesticSilence initiative, organisations such as People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) give abused women countrywide opportunities to learn a range of skills to make money.

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“This nationwide initiative, launched this year, teaches women make-up application, wig-making, nail installation and eyelash extension, learning to drive and attaining sewing, baking, computer and sustainable farming,” Powa’s Thandiwe McCloy said.

Vetten said these initiatives needed support to ensure victims of GBV were empowered to get out of abusive situations.

A researcher at NGO Rhiza Babuyile, Katlego Assis, agreed and said community organisations were battling to keep up with the demand for GBV-related services, which also contributes to the list of costs to government and, subsequently, the economy.

Access is a problem

“Women living in communities with high levels of violence struggle to find jobs or stay employed because commuting to work and back is not only unaffordable, but also poses a daily danger to their lives,” she said.

“Some women leave jobs because of restraining orders against former partners, while others have left because of the toll GBV has taken on their mental health,” Assis said.

“GBV is keeping scores of women economically inactive, meaning money, which could contribute to the GDP, not being made.”

November – National Disability Rights Awareness Month

With November being National Disability Rights Awareness Month, the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Response Fund highlighted the fact that many people living with disabilities were abused.

Many, if not most, are unable to defend themselves or speak out, said Tshepo Sefotlhelo, the fund’s executive head of marketing and communication.

“The fund was alarmed at the lack of statistics and figures available – both globally and locally – to illustrate the extent of GBVF being perpetrated against persons living with disabilities.

“This paints a bleak picture of what we, at the fund, are calling the invisible pandemic.”

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