Gale Shabangu and Dr Melanie Stander, Mediclinic

South Africa is notorious for its high levels of gender-based violence (GBV). The SAPS’s statistics for reported rape cases for 2019/2020 are 42 289 and for sexual assault 7 749 (SAPS, 2020), amid massive under-reporting of rape. Intimate homicide is five times the world average. Studies have shown that a staggering number of between 25% and 40% of South African women have experienced sexual or physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

GBV survivors need more than their words to be heard – action must be taken to improve their lot. At Mediclinic, we understand that GBV has become a plague with devastating effects on survivors, families and communities across our country. We have joined forces with the Ring for Peace Foundation, which brings together the scientific excellence of the private sector, community spirit and an ethos of care.

Mediclinic has created a comprehensive support structure and provides safe clinical and emotional support to GBV survivors in the Winelands region, with interconnected efficiency circles from the private sector. We also seek to raise awareness about the correct steps to follow to support survivors of sexual assault. All healthcare workers in the Emergency Centres at Mediclinic Stellenbosch, Mediclinic Worcester and Mediclinic Paarl received additional, focused training to receive survivors of GBV in a caring and holistic way by offering clinical forensic examinations and counselling services. A critical education and awareness campaign are underway simultaneously within the nursing community and ER24 teams and in the larger Winelands community.

Both women and men experience GBV, but most of the victims are women and girls. The effects of GBV include increased trauma-related health risks, undermining trust, inflicting physical disabilities, causing stigma and shame, and all this regardless of victims’ social status. It is difficult to collect accurate statistical GBV data in South Africa because domestic violence is rarely reported. The Commission for Gender Equality (KGG) confirms that the officially reported GBV statistics figures do not reflect the true extent of GBV offences in South Africa. Mediclinic understands that a big part of the battle is the awareness and safe confidence to report GBV. Our initiative in the Winelands region also aims to promote a greater understanding and provision of care, remove the associated stigma and reduce the fear of secondary victimization. Our Winelands hospitals work closely with external stakeholders to ensure effective continuity of care for survivors. In this initiative, we have provided forensic training courses to our emergency services practitioners, developed a strong awareness campaign in the nursing community and emergency teams, and expanded it to promote greater community awareness about GBV.

The cause of GBV cannot be attributed to a single factor, but the interplay of individual, community, economic, cultural and religious factors affecting different levels of society. In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa launched a private sector-led, multi-sectoral Gender-Based Violence and Murder of Women (CFSP) Response Fund to support the implementation of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) and the more comprehensive CFSP response in the country.

The NSP relies on six pillars:

  • Accountability, coordination and leadership
  • Prevention and rebuilding of social cooperation
  • Justice, safety and protection
  • Response, care, support and healing
  • Economic empowerment
  • Research and information management

Mediclinic wants to add its voice to the call for action against GBV, promote greater understanding, and provide community care. We want to reduce the stigma and shame for survivors. Mediclinic invites the community to work together to create a safer environment for the most vulnerable in our society.

The above article was published in local community newspapers – Eikestadnuus on 09 December 2021 and Worcester Standard on 13 December 2021

About the authors

Ms Gale Shabangu joined Mediclinic Southern Africa in October 2019 as the Chief Transformation Officer. She has vast experience in diversity and inclusion and has served in similar roles at blue-chip South African companies such as Accenture and Vodacom. She holds a BCom (Economics and Taxation) from the University of Witwatersrand

Dr Melanie Stander was in the first group of Emergency Medicine physicians that qualified in South Africa in 2009. She is currently the Emergency Medicine Manager for Mediclinic Southern Africa. She is a past President of the Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa,  a past Vice-President of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine and the founder of the Gender-Specific Issues Special Interest Group for IFEM. She is passionate about system development and improvement in emergency medical care, international emergency medicine and driving engagement around issues of gender equity for professionals in healthcare.