South African women’s group trains police to respond to gender-based violence

January 17, 2024

UN Women, the government of Ireland, the Elma Foundation, Bread of the World and Ilitha Labantu have been partnered with the South African Police Service (SAPS) since 2021 to launch a survivor-centred approach to instruct officers on working with survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).

“We used to get complaints from our clients about how badly they were treated at police stations”, said Ella Mangisa, Executive Director of the local women’s rights group Ilitha Labantu. “A woman running away from a violent situation would be told to go back and sort things out with her abuser or be told these are personal issues they need to resolve.”

“As we dug further, we realized that it was a lack of understanding, sensitivity, and a lack of knowledge on the part of the frontline officers”, Mangisa continued. “Many didn’t know exactly what to do when a woman comes in to report or how handle a survivor in their most vulnerable state.”

“Eventually we decided that instead of constantly reporting individual officers for these incidents we needed a broader, solutions-based approach”, she added.

The training programmes cover the following topics: defining gender, gender sensitivity, harmful social norms, legal remedies and procedures, the role of the SAPS, working with survivors of violence, handling traumatized individuals, and basic counselling.

Over the past three years, SAPS has implemented the programme across 75 police stations in the Cape Metro and Cape Winelands of the Western Cape Province.

On 1 December 2023, 66 officers graduated after completing all the training modules.

Ilitha Labantu plans to further expand the programme across South Africa, bringing in other organizations with different areas of expertise, and even hopes to integrate the content from its trainings into the curriculum of the country’s police academies.

SecurityWomen supports the initiative and the inclusion of more female police officers to ensure a better security for everyone in society.

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