Putting women and children at the centre of all we do

Putting women and children at the centre of all we do

I started writing this letter last month, but was unable to complete it as my team and I had to multi-task on many different fronts, one of which was to bring our strategy process to a close. I’m happy to report that we have now completed our strategy and will move to its implementation over the next four years. I want to thank all of you who sent inputs and gave us insights that helped us to formulate our game-changing, high-impact areas of investment over the next four years.

Given the pressures of finalising our strategy, last month was almost over before I realised that it was Women’s Month. Yet, I couldn’t help but think that though we dedicate a month to women or designate 16 days over November and December to raising awareness about violence against women and children, for many South African women, and indeed, women around the world, interpersonal violence remains a daily threat.

Even though I’d celebrated Women’s Day on 9 August, it was another date in August that reminded me that it was that month that the South African government had designated as the one for women: 24 August. For it was on this day last year that Uyinene Mrwetyana had been murdered.

South Africa has incredibly high levels of violence against women and children. Perhaps it’s not fair to single out one victim by name, but the murder of Uyinene hit me particularly hard. As a mother, a sister, an aunt, every time I hear about victims of domestic violence, I am reminded how vulnerable we are as South African women.

All too often, our homes are where we are most vulnerable. COVID-19 and lockdown measures have exacerbated the dangers for women and shown us the dark belly of the beast that is sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

We know that OSF-SA is but one foundation, and philanthropy alone cannot solve societal problems. But we can play a part. It is for this reason that our new strategy will foreground the welfare and well-being of women and children and will be the lens through which we evaluate all our work. In addition, our work to support efforts to ameliorate violence against women and children, initiated in 2019, will become a fully-fledged portfolio under our new strategy and builds on the important groundwork our team and sector actors have done to date. We have also accelerated work with other foundations based in South Africa and the continent for greater coordination and to maximise our efforts to counter violence against women and young people.

As devastating as COVID-19 and lockdown efforts have been in South Africa and the world, it has allowed us to become even more flexible in our grant making and to respond to emergency efforts through the organisations we support—both longstanding and new grantees. We prioritised providing support to organisations assisting survivors of SGBV, committing more than R3.5 million to these causes as part of our COVID-19 response. We supported organisations working in the sector such as Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, the National Shelter Movement and Masimanyane Women’s Rights. We also contributed support to grantees such as Amnesty International and OXFAM for SGBV projects. I look forward to announcing some of our new investments in this area very soon.

I want to celebrate all our grantees working to mitigate SGBV. This work hits hard on so many levels. I’m always worried about who cares for the caregivers. This is something we all need to address.

Written by Bulelwa Ngewana, Executive Director: OSF-SA.