South Africa has long had a problem with gender-based violence (GBV), with a femicide rate five times the global average and thousands of rapes reported annually. The lockdown measures implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 highlighted the appalling frequency of violence perpetrated against South African women. In the first week of the lockdown, the South African Police Service (SAPS) reported receiving 2,300 calls for help related to gender-based violence. By mid-June 2020, 65 women and children had been killed by intimate partners in the country. [i]
Unfortunately, the full extent of GBV in South Africa is still undetermined, as reports of GBV are often dismissed by the police who perceive the issue as a private matter for families, rather than a criminal matter for the courts. There is also stigma associated with sexual violence. Together, these factors contribute to the under reporting of GBV cases.
There are a number of Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) in the country that have been formed to help the women that have been victims of GBV in all its forms. While all were formed in order to help support these women, some, like the TEARS Foundation, have taken it a step further, aiming to help provide a clearer, more accurate picture of the extent of this problem across the country.
Going digital – TEARS Foundation provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Confidential services are provided to all victims at no charge nationwide, with a 24-hour free SMS service to anyone who has access to a cellphone. The NPO connects victims to facilities that offer the assistance they need, ranging from counselling and support groups to medical attention, as well as following up with the police on behalf of victims who have case numbers and providing advice on how to apply for a protection order.
TEARS Foundation Founder, Mara Glennie, explains that due to the fact that there are still no accurate statistics on the reality of GBV in South Africa, TEARS decided to pursue a digital platform that would enable them to have more accurate data, at the click of a button. However, TEARS wanted something more than just a means to collate facts and figures. The NPO was looking for a digital platform that would also enable its intervention team to regularly follow-up with clients in their journey to healing.
Specialist software solution provider MIP Holdings was only too happy to assist. Using the CRM module in MIP’s insurance system, the company built, deployed and are maintaining a digital platform for TEARS Foundation. The platform assists the NPO in capturing cases, recording victim and perpetrator details, as well as things like case numbers provided by the police and court order numbers.
All of this information is stored in a database that the TEARS team can easily access. The solution not only captures updated case information, it allows emails to be sent and received within the platform and follow-up calls to be scheduled. With drop down menus for all the data that statistics are needed on, the platform has a Live Dashboard, updating as information is captured.
Going national – TEARS Foundation is currently in the process of expanding its services, but in order to make a difference, they need support and encouragement. Together TEARS Foundation and MIP are hoping to make this service available nationwide to other rape assistance organisations.
As with any technology project, the TEARS platform had some teething problems, but these have been resolved, Glennie says. “Initially when the system was launched, it was not very user friendly. However, MIP developers have been instrumental in getting the system user friendly. This is an ongoing development, and having launched a year ago, our system has grown in leaps and bounds. In fact, we don’t think we have yet developed its maximum potential, and are looking forward to developing it further,” she says.
Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, adds that the company is particularly pleased to have been able to help TEARS, and in the process, the thousands of cases the NPO assists. “When we found out about the amazing work the TEARS Foundation does, it was an easy decision to provide assistance in helping them digitise. This has become one of our biggest and most important CSR initiatives, and we are looking forward to seeing the benefits of the platform in action for many years to come,” he says.
“MIP’s passion and dedication to our cause was clear in their approach and understanding of our need. They have been phenomenal in the solution they have built, and still are building. Their support of our organisation and giving us the ability to draw statistical data at a click of a button, and getting different companies involved in developing this service for us, has been incredible. We are so glad to be working with the amazing men and women at MIP – each one excels in his or her chosen field,” Glennie concludes.
Behind the scenes – TEARS Foundation is a women-led organization that provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Confidential services are provided to all victims at no charge.. www.tears.co.za
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