Thohoyandou Victims Empowerment Programme
The increasing lack of funding for community-based organisations (CBOs) has negative effects for South Africa’s struggle to eradicate poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS as required by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This most disturbing insight motivated SANGONeT to approach the Thohoyandou Victims Empowerment Programme (TVEP), a rights-based CBO that operates and provides trauma centres, community empowerment and positive support services, to shed some light into the institutional and financial realities that CBOs face in the country.
Supporting Vulnerable Communities
Located at Sibasa in the Thulamela Municipality, Limpopo, TVEP is creating a supportive environment for the victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and HIV/AIDS. The organisation also educates and capacitates the community’s estimated 600,000 people about their constitutional responsibilities and rights.
It is unfortunate to note that vulnerable communities often contend with poor service delivery from government, and due to lack of knowledge of their rights and correct chains of complaints open to then, they are unable to fight for better service. In this regard, Fiona Nicholson, TVEP Programme Director, notes that her organisation strives to ensure that service delivery is implemented at the community level. She explains that, “We assist government departments to deliver services according to their respective mandates.”
Nicholson argues that TVEP’s role in ensuring that government deliver quality services to the community, is one way in which the organisation struggles to eradicate violence against women and children, and HIV/AIDS-based stigma.
Although TVEP believes in working together with government officials in the delivery of services, Masikhwa Tshilidzi, Senior Legal Officer, states that, “Government departments need to understand the significance of working with civil society organisations (CSOs) in service delivery.” Masikhwa notes that there is increasingly a worrisome tendency by certain government officials to treat CBOs like political parties because they do not understand the role that these organisations play versus that of political parties.
“Ironically”, says Nicholson, “all we are trying to do is to ensure that the excellent policies developed by our government are actually implemented at district level. Despite this reality, whenever we expose malpractice or corruption, some choose to label us “anti-establishment” – or worse!”
Bleak Picture for CSOs Funding in SA
Nicholson notes that although the Department of Social Development has a constitutional mandate to provide psycho-social and empowerment services to victims of crime and violence, it is failing to deliver on this mandate as well as to provide sufficient grants to support the work of CSOs.
She states that the department contributes less that three percent of TVEP's annual budget, adding that this forces the organisation to rely on the ‘generosity’ of foreigners to finance the psychological, legal and medical services - which victims are constitutionally entitled to receive from their government.
Although the National Development Agency (NDA), the grant distribution arm of the Department of Social Development, emphasised the important role that CBOs play in the struggle to eradicate poverty during the recent National Poverty Conference, Nicholson warns that the NDA cannot contribute to poverty eradication if it continues to fund projects on a short-term and ad-hoc basis.
Nicholson highlights the tendency by the National Lotteries Board (NLB) to channel funds to certain provinces while ignoring others where people live in abject conditions of poverty as a major challenge for TVEP and other South African CBOs.
"In 2005 only 2.5% of funds distributed by the NLB were allocated to Limpopo, whereas the Western Cape received 25.5% for their projects," she carps. “When challenged, they insist this is because Limpopo CBOs lack the capacity to submit proposals. However, this lacks credibility because those CBOs who have received grants from them, such as TVEP, are only ever given a small percentage of what they requested”.
Disturbingly, Limpopo also fares very badly with funding from the National Department of Social Development. According to 2005 statistics, this historically poor Province only received 4% of the National budget for the non-profit sector, whereas the Western Cape was heavily favoured once again with 25% of the budget.
Not All is Lost
Although lack of funding has forced the organisation to suspend some of its essential projects, Nicholson envisions working partnerships with nonprofits or assigning some of their programmes to capable organisations, as possible solutions to this problem.
Currently, TVEP is partnering with ActionAid, an international NGO, in their Child Sponsorship programme. Marvin Runganani, TVEP’s Child Sponsorship Coordinator notes that, “We are working on a number of small projects, one of which is to help 4 communities to build safe houses.” Runganani explains that the community can utilise the houses as drop-in-centres, community offices or as emergency accommodation for the victims of various forms of violence.
As CSOs look into the possibility of expanding their services, TVEP’s focus is on enhancing the quality of the work it is doing and to evaluate its impact.
- Butjwana Seokoma, Information Services Coordinator, SANGONeT.