Assessing feasibility of interventions to tackle gender-based violence in Eastern Cape, South Africa

Parents and caretakers participate in a focus group discussion with the Matahari team

Eastern Cape is known for having the highest GBV rate in the country at double the national rate, and children are a large proportion of these cases. These statistics exist in a complex societal fabric and norms, including that 41.7% of children in the Eastern Cape live with only their mothers, that there is widespread poverty and poor public infrastructure, and that gendered norms are inculcated through unregulated traditional practices and rituals, among other factors. We undertook a Feasibility Study to rightsize and focus interventions for GBV prevention in adolescents for a BMZ proposal, interviewing government officials, parents and caregivers, children, and traditional leaders.

We found, inter alia, that:

  • The main causes of GBV faced by children are (in no specific order): cultural and traditional norms, poverty and related factors, poor or inadequate public infrastructure and policy, and incomplete family structures and lack of role models.
  • Poor political will on GBV policies and initiatives at the implementation level.
  • There are significant knowledge gaps around the understanding of ‘positive parenting’ in communities.
  • Public infrastructure is a major factor in increasing GBV risk, including as regards electrification, running water within homes, and free school transport. This means that children spend a lot of time, often after dark, collecting water and firewood far from their homes and vulnerable to sexual violence.
  • Churches, schools, communities were considered unsafe for children.
  • There has been poor progress on inclusion of Pillar 7 (focused specifically on adolescents) in the National Strategic Plan.
  • There is acknowledgment at the National level that there is a monumental battle ahead to overcome misogynistic and heteronormative cultural norms.

Findings were validated and triangulated through Bellwethers from the University of Fort Hare and from Thetha Nathi Counselling Services.