Duncan Village and Ikhayalethu – Our Home

During the recent annual 16 Days of Activism campaign, Ikhayalethu – Our Home facilitated the raising of awareness of gender-based violence against women, children and people with disabilities, as well as awareness of drugs and teenage pregnancies in Duncan Village, East London.

History of Duncan Village

Duncan Village is a township that was established in 1941. It was named after the then Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, Patrick Duncan, who oversaw the opening of what was called a “leasehold tenure area” in the East Bank Location, hence Duncan Village.

The township is located about five kilometres from the East London’s Central Business District (CBD). It has a population of 16 380 (Census 2011) which predominantly identifies as Black African.

Duncan Village is divided into six wards with each headed by a ward councillor. There are no clear divisions between the informal parts and formal parts of the township since most shacks are planted on the open spaces within formal houses.

The informal parts of Duncan Village are made of zinc and wooden shacks. Some of them are lined with cardboard inside which is used as a ceiling or lining to protect the occupants from extreme weather conditions such as hot summers and cold winters.

In the informal parts of Duncan Village, residents use communal stand-alone toilets that are provided by the municipality and stand-pipes located mainly at the edge of each informal settlement. These communal toilets are shared at least by a hundred to three-hundred people depending on the size of the settlement. There is a strong reliance on the bucket system for daily activities particularly in the informal parts of Duncan Village. Residents prefer to use the bucket system since in many areas toilets are far from their shacks and they are dangerous to use especially at night.

Most informal areas are reliant on illegal electricity connections. However, the municipality is piloting a project on the electrification of shacks using the prepaid metre system. There is a general sense of insecurity in the informal settlements of Duncan Village due to high levels of crime, flooding and shack fires caused by illegal connections and flammable energy sources that are used.

(Edited extract from “Understanding the local state, service delivery and protests in post-apartheid South Africa: The case of Duncan Village and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, East London” – Patricia Ndhlovu, University of Witwatersrand, 2015)

16 Days of Activism in Duncan Village

Largely due to unemployment, people of Duncan Village are struggling with the historical and present realities of the township. People are not able to support their families, contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and substance abuse.

One of the effects of GBV and substance abuse on the pregnant women is that it leaves unborn babies at risk and spiral towards children’s lives consisting of not focusing at school and/or dropping out, destined to repeat the cycle of unemployment, substance abuse and GBV.

National Gender-Based Violence Command Centre

Since 2014, the Department of Social Development has run an award-winning centre, the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC), for people affected by gender-based violence.  The 24-hour toll free number to call is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cellphone.

“The Command Centre has attended to a variety emergency situations including indecent assault, physical violence, rape, abandoned children and verbal abuse.  It has also attended to cases of stalking, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, forced marriages, forced prostitution, elderly citizen abuse, bullying and has even intervened in family disputes, to name a few.

The success of the GBVCC can be attributed to the fact that it is a comprehensive, integrated system that provides immediate, consistent, coordinated and timely support to victims of gender-based violence.

It uses mobile technology to estimate the location of a victim, assign the closest social worker in the field to the case, and record and receive continuous feedback on the case. The Centre is also staffed by trained social workers/command centre agents who provide immediate counselling to victims and help them to avoid or minimise further exposure to gender-based violence.

When a caller contacts the GBVCC from a mobile phone, they are (with explicit permission) geographically located, enabling the Centre to determine the resources nearest to the caller, whether it be a social worker, a police station, a hospital or safe house.  In this way, help is dispatched in quick fashion.”

Department of Social Development Website

An ABCD Perspective

Gender-based violence has many interrelated causes and effects, and it is not diminishing.  A policy brief to the South African Medical Research Council in 2009 highlighted some of the challenges.

The GBVCC is a national asset that communities can use to deal with gender-based violence.  Ikhayalethu-Our Home is a local asset, as is Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre and the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit, which also has a 24-hour number – 082 809 2277.  There is no lack of assets for the community of Duncan Village.

We move to community-driven then.  An asset is only useful if it is used.

As a global society, we often feel that it is none of our business.  We detach.  We look away.  Why?  The bystander effect.  “Nobody thinks they’re the kind of person who would stand by while a woman is raped in the room next door“, but the majority are.  We can theorise about what we would do, but what do we actually do?

What about the victims?  Why don’t they make use of the assets themselves?  Well, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault has a fact sheet that explains the reasons in a first-world country, including fear of reprisal, belief that the police would/could do nothing to help etc.  We can only imagine the added reasons in our own country.

The Challenge

What can your community do to end gender-based violence in your community? What will you do to end it?

We have a comments section on our website where you can share your ideas and success stories with others.

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