What We Do

Our programme of activities are :

A. S
taff leadership and organisational development

1. Staff leadership

JAW has always run an internship programme, where we employ primarily women, from the community in which we are based and build their capacity to work on Gender Justice issues. This strategy had a two fold objective – the first is to build a skilled resource base within communities which could continue and extend the work and the second, is to create an employment opportunity for women, through helping them gain skills and work experience.

Over this year, having clarified our vision and mission as an organization, a third objective for our internship programme emerged. This was to build a layer of women (and men’s) leadership which sought to model a different use of one’s power and authority: One which freed rather than constrained, which was reflective of one self and of one’s practice, which respected others autonomy, which valued constructive conflict as a process to work through to a deeper understanding of an issue/self, which encouraged an openness to the world through continual questioning and learning.

i) Training from accredited service provider
Having a clearer sense of why we worked the way that we worked, we decided to formalize the programme and to raise funds specifically for skills development. We managed to secure funding from Lotto and over the past year, staff undertook the following formal / accredited programmes on a part time basis. (We feel strongly that all our staff receive training from an accredited service provider so that staff can use the qualification in time to secure other employment)

ii) Internal training

We also provide training internally within JAW and help staff/interns access opportunities offered by other organizations thereby increasing staff members/interns knowledge of policies and laws aimed at protecting women’s rights and how to apply/enforce/support women seeking to access rights at community level.
  • Internal within Jaw
  • Domestic Violence Act
  • Overview of Sexual Offenses Act + Access to Post Exposure Prophylaxis PEP (Department of Health Policy)
  • Sexual Development of children/adolescents - Training staff to work with Parents and Caregivers
  • Child Sex Abuse and Prevention – Training staff to work with Parents and Caregivers
  • Inheritance rights and succession planning training, life history books – Training staff to work with people living with HIV/Aids
  • External Training sourced
  • Children’s Act - OAK Foundation
  • Sexual Offenses Act and Court Procedures - National Prosecuting Authority
  • Maintenance, Children’s + Domestic Violence Acts - Provincial Victim Empowerment Forum
  • Children’s Act - Provincial Victim Empowerment Forum
  • Child Justice Act - Provincial Victim Empowerment Forum
  • Advocacy training - Oxfam Australia
  • Digital Stories Training – Women’s Net
  • Using Video as an Advocacy tool - Witness Video Advocacy Project, New York- training held in Budapest, Hungary
  • Qualitative research methods in Gender Advocacy – Reproductive Health Research Unit, University of Witwatersrand

2. Organisational Development

Two new systems developed and implemented over the past year help us document our work and reflect on the process:

  • 6 Weekly Planning and Reflection cycles implemented as learning and monitoring tools – We try to work in six-weekly cycles that allow 4 weeks for project work, and two weeks for organizational learning, documentation and reflection. Although this has worked to some extent, challenges such as external training dates, travel, and community needs have impacted on our ability to keep to the 6 weekly cycle. Through this process we have seen that interns still require a great deal of support to plan project work and to reflect on outcomes. This remains a major challenge, but we feel that the 6 weekly cycle system has provided some framework for addressing these challenges.
  • JAW Blog Established and reflection and sharing tool/space – We have a created a blog (www.justiceandwomen.blogspot.com) to help us connect the Melmoth, PMB and Creighton offices and to share learning and deepen reflection through questions posed to one self and to others.

Making a difference
Has the work that we’ve done made any difference to our organization? We feel that the investment of resources has been beneficial – particularly as it relates to our ability to engage more effectively in advocacy work on gender justice/violence against women. We have also seen marked shifts within JAW programme teams, where staff and interns are taking increased responsibility for their own work and are integrating ideas about gender equality into their own lives.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Building Organizational Coherence - Interns challenging power relationships and moving from private to public spaces – for example reporting rape within a family and refusing to treat these as “family matters,” challenging police, and other service providers for failure to implement policy and for corruption. One of our staff members exposed corruption within the Melmoth Post Office, where a postal clerk had been defrauding social grantees of their pensions.
  • Growing leadership in the field of Gender Justice - Grace Ngema has been asked to work as a co-facilitator with Michel Freidman from Gender at Work www.gender@work.org to facilitate their action research training in South Africa; Jenny Bell was asked by Open Society Institute (New York) to present at an international conference in Geneva in October 2009 on women’s rights in the context of HIV/AIDS; Amber Howard Cornelius has been asked to by Oxfam Australia to facilitate a community of practice group with their partner organizations on how to involve men in work for gender equality. Our interns have facilitated at workshops run by the Melmoth municipality and have been congratulated on their skill.
B. Increasing women's access to justice

The Access to Justice Team has been working to increase knowledge of and support for women’s rights and access to justice and have used different methodologies:
  • Legal literacy training 
  • Paralegal case work
  • Building strategic relationships - policy submissions 
  • Community mobilization with community groups in 3 areas in Kwa Zulu Natal  Sweetwaters  (a traditional area outside Pietermaritzburg) Melmoth (a rural area in Zululand) and Creighton (a rural community near the Southern Drakensberg) 
a) Legal Literacy Training

What is covered in our legal literacy training on Sexual Rights and abuse within Families?
We have focused on sexual violence against women and children, as rape and sexual abuse remain a primary issue of concern among the women with whom we work. We have designed a two-day workshop on the Sexual Offenses Act and on Sexuality and Families.  We felt this latter focus was important, as most of the sexual violence reported in communities are perpetrated by male family members and go unreported because custom dictates that this be dealt with as a family matter.

Day one of the training focuses on the Sexual Offenses Act itself, including the new definition of rape which is gender-neutral and inclusive and looks at the rights of rape survivors in terms of police and health care services including access to PEP.  We also discuss issues such as mental capacity to consent to sex and marital rape. 

The training also addresses sexual and reproductive health rights and customary practices such as the use of damages (money paid to rape victim’s family by the perpetrator in lieu of legal action) and how this impacts on rape survivors.  Our paralegal Thobile wrote a beautiful story (the story of “Lindile”) which she heard in her community about a young girl having been raped by an uncle and whose family sought retribution in the form of damages.

After the damages were paid, the uncle continued to sexually abuse the girl and felt he was entitled to do this because he had “paid for her.”  The girl ultimately committed suicide. We use this story to help communities see the consequences of keeping silent about rape, and how male perpetrators are protected at the expense of women and children’s rights. 

The second day of the workshop looks at normal sexual development over the life cycle, and encourages parents and caregivers to discuss sexuality and sexual abuse within their families as a way of promoting healthy sexuality and preventing abuse.  We begin the workshop by identifying our own feelings about sexuality, and what blocks us from being able to talk about these things openly.  Participants are asked to share their own childhood experiences of learning about sexuality, and how shame and silence about these issues taught them to see sex as something embarrassing and dirty. 

We discuss how these beliefs create a culture of silence around sexuality that helps facilitate and conceal abuse.  Finally, we do listening exercises to help participants practice listening and talking about sexual matters and to deal with their own feelings of discomfort.
Numbers of people reached through legal literacy training? We have reached over 450 community members through these workshops – including traditional leaders, community policing forum members, community care workers and care givers, church groups, and other community groups.

 Inside a JAW legal literacy workshop 

An intern’s report on a workshop demonstrates the struggle involved in raising awareness of women’s rights within communities where men feel threatened and vulnerable, but how through continuing the conversation the  beginnings of a deeper understanding and acceptance of women’s rights starts surfacing. 

Facilitating this type of process remains a challenge for all staff and interns particularly when one is confronted with the deep anger voiced by men over their perceived loss of power within families and communities. We are also confronted with working with community groups to challenge the customary and practical blocks that prevent women from seeking redress in cases of sexual violence – like the need to repay ‘lobola’ (dowry) if a wife leaves her husband, and the fact that many perpetrators of sexual violence are family breadwinners, and reporting rape/abuse would mean the loss of family income.

b) Paralegal case work

We have provided paralegal legal support and referral to other social service for 150 women and their family members around issues related to rape, domestic violence, maintenance, and other civil matters. 

One of the biggest challenges we face in providing legal support is the unresponsiveness of legal systems – from police, to prosecutors, to the Legal Aid Justice Centres; one case can take several weeks of intensive work to resolve (as the report below details.)  We also struggle in terms of time and staff capacity to deal with individual cases as they are intense and demanding, and often leave staff members equally traumatized. 

c) Divorce Support

Divorce Support (Pietermaritzburg) We run a paralegal service once a week where we help people with a variety of family law issues. We are receiving increasing numbers of requests from women who need assistance with divorce and who cannot afford legal fees and who are tired of waiting for assistance from the Legal Aid Board.

We assess each case and if appropriate refer women to the NE Divorce court – where a divorce can be obtained for as little as R100. Solla Dladla, JAW senior staff member, is the divorce paralegal expert in our office.  She currently supports about 5-6 women a month to complete their own divorces. 

C. Building Strategc Partnerships + Policy Submissions

1. Partnerships

 In this period we continued to work with the National Sexual Monitoring Group, led by Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, and attended two joint working group meetings in Johannesburg looking at the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and the treatment of rape survivors.

This working group developed the Shukumisa Campaign, and we have been participating in the monitoring of police stations in terms of dealing with rape survivors. We have benefited from our participation in Local Victim Empowerment Forum (National Prosecuting Authority lead Forum) have used this forum to raise complaints about treatment of rape survivors by police and prosecutors. 

2. Policy Submissions
  • Maintenance regulations – Submission to the Senior State Law Advisor – Chief Directorate of Legislative Development, DOJCD 28/9/2009
  • Advocacy Briefing document with National Sexual Offenses Monitoring Group and Shukumisa Campaign – “Forensic nursing: Why it would help rape survivors and what needs to be done to put it into practice”  - 19/3/2010
  • Joint Submission with National Sexual Offenses Monitoring Group to the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities on the Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act on 27/10/09 
D. Community Mobilisation
Although we had been looking at ways of strengthening community support for women and children who were victims of sexual violence and abuse, a gang rape by 9 men of a teenager in Yanguye, Melmoth, at gun point in front of her family, sparked a crisis for Jaw Melmoth staff.

It was the first time that the group directly confronted a situation on which we had raised community awareness and which involved community members with whom we were directly working. The staff felt frightened. They were fearful of taking action – as they themselves lived in the community and were afraid of retaliatory violence, but felt that having raised awareness they could not keep quiet.

They had to “walk the talk”.   Lengthy discussions ensued and in the end the staff developed the following a response which sought to address the practical needs of the girl and her family as well as address the deep culture which sustained these issues.
  • Practical/Conditional needs – Staff sourced counseling support for the girl and her family from an NGO based in Empangeni and once that had been done, contacted the girl and her family for permission to   use the incident at a community conversation which aimed to highlight the issue of rape in Yanguye.  The girl and her family agreed.
  • Community Conversation and March in Solidarity with Victim of Sexual Violence - Jaw staff invited significant community members (Traditional leaders, Community Council, Traditional Youth Groups, Faith based groups, Department of Health and the South African Police SAP) to the event  which was held on the 15 August. Here staff used forum theatre methodology to encourage community members to discuss the rape with the characters involved in the drama. 
  • A Community March- After the meeting Jaw staff felt that they could not leave the issue alone and decided that they wanted to organize a march in Yanguye – as a sign of solidarity against acts of violence against women in the area. The march the staff felt, was the first step in what the staff have come to call the Impempe (isizulu for whistle) campaign – with the slogan “pushing back fear from our lives.” The staff approached the traditional leaders and community council to ask permission to hold such an event. Permission was given – but with a sense that such action was new – and questions were asked about “what could it achieve.” Staff were however determined and enlisted support from other NGO’s in the area, from local schools to participate in the march. The march was held on 28 August and over 300 youth participated. The older members of the community stood on the side of the road – staring in amazement at the event – and the march ended at the traditional court where the traditional leaders hosted a discussion about the need to stop violence in the community. One positive outcome of this initiative was a community decision to re- instate the defunct CPF and to address the concerns and competition between the Community Policing Forum, Traditional leaders and the SAP.