The People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) NGO is fighting the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) by yesterday reviving its legal department at the Johannesburg Central Magistrate’s Court.
Powa’s legal manager Disemelo Tlali said the department was established to alleviate and comfort abuse survivors during legal processes.
“As an organisation, our aim is to provide quality women-centred legal services and engage in national and regional advocacy for the protection and promotion of women’s rights,” she said.
“We strive for a safe and equal society intolerant of all forms of violence against women and girls. South Africa has some of the highest rates of GBV in the world and the legal department is critical to ensuring women receive the justice they deserve.”
The Powa legal department was closed in 2018 due to a lack of funds.
“With funding from the Ford Foundation, we will be able to provide survivors of gender-based violence with legal services and support that is free of charge,” said Powa’s clinical manager, Itumeleng Moloko.
The Johannesburg court manager and abuse survivor Janine de Wee said she always urged her staff to approach abuse victims with empathy.
“As a court manager I am responsible for administration purposes, ensuring there is good governance and the clients are treated with respect and not like victims because I know what they are going through.”
“I was in a 14-year-long abusive relationship where I chose to stay because of the unconditional love I had for my husband but lost my true identity. I woke up on one morning in 2014 and thought enough is enough, took my four children and left to live with my mother,” she said.
De Wee added she wanted to encourage other women to seek help and regain their confidence.
“I wanted my story, experiences and memories to be building blocks, which began with forgiving myself. I also thought my story could impact other women because my influence could save someone’s life,” she said.
Koketjo Mantati, Powa’s social worker based in Tembisa, said visibility of social workers at police station helped police escalate GBV matters.
“I am responsible for psycho-social support and counselling. It is an advantage to be based at police stations because we are able to assist victims at that particular time. Victims are usually made to wait hours before filling out protection order forms but with our advocacy at the station, it makes the process a lot easier.”
Johannesburg Domestic Violence Court Magistrate Nicola Olivier said abuse victims had three options.
“A victim goes to the police station and lodges a complaint. The problem is police don’t follow through; the second option is a victim can approach the court and the last option is counselling and mediation.”