The VPF is clear that violence IS preventable – Liz Dartnall and Dr Nwabisa Shai discuss how

It is widely acknowledged that multi-stakeholder collaboration is critical for efforts to prevent violence against women and violence against children. Violence is a complex social problem with multiple causes. There is no single intervention that can address all the underlying causal or contributory factors to violent behaviour. An intervention that works in one community is not guaranteed the same efficacy in another community or at a larger scale.

There is also no single organisation or institution that can deliver all the services needed to address violence. However, achieving multisectoral collaboration is not easy. Organisational culture and context, sectoral relationships, differing values and worldviews, and individual personalities/politics make collaboration difficult to achieve.

This makes it difficult for information and lessons to flow between stakeholders in a way that facilitates the use of evidence from tested interventions in policy and other programmes.

Consequently, many evidence-based programmes are developed and tested in communities with the promise that if they are found to be effective, they will be scaled-up to other communities and perhaps the rest of the country. And yet, this is almost never the case. Literature is replete with promising projects with evidence of effect that were not scaled-up and in some cases they were discontinued.

Globally, researchers and programme developers have recognised that scaling up interventions is a complicated process that requires different stakeholders to work together for extended periods of time.

In South Africa, the need for collaboration to achieve evidence informed violence prevention is further complicated and necessitated by five important factors: the structure of government; the centrality of NGOs in violence prevention; the influence of development partners and multisectoral organisation in the sector; and the high cost of violence.

Anglo American’s Hermien Botes explains the impact of the VPF on her organisation
The post-1994 political system created governments at national, provincial and local levels. The three spheres of government are independent of each other and work together through cooperative governance with no operational hierarchy.

Some government functions are the exclusive constitutional mandate of either national, provincial or local government or are shared in cases such as health, social development, education and agriculture. Preventing violence requires interventions at national, provincial and community level. Eleven national departments and their provincial counterparts have legal and institutional responsibilities to prevent and respond to violence against women and children.

Scaling up violence prevention interventions requires cooperation of departments both vertically (between spheres of government) and horizontally (in spheres of government).
NGOs are particularly important in the implementation of violence prevention interventions. A history of government neglect of social welfare services for communities defined under apartheid as African and Coloured, created a service deficit that has, for decades, been filled by NGOs.

According to the NPO register, as at 5 February 2016, there were 150,456 NGOs registered across 11 sectors and 33 objectives in South Africa. Nearly 40% of all registered NGOs operated in the social services sector, followed by the development and housing sectors.

In the violence against women and children (VAWC) sector, NGOs have a range of roles. There are organisations that provide services to victims of violence, those involved in advocacy work, and those that undertake primary prevention interventions. More than 90% of social welfare services are provided by NGOs. including VAWC services.

Thus, it would not be possible to work towards prevention if government did not collaborate with NGOs, and NGOs did not cooperate with each other. However, research shows that relations between government and NGOs are often adversarial and meaningful intersectoral collaboration is not the norm.
Development partners and multinational organisations, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the European Union (EU) and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), have a significant influence in the sector. Development partners have been a source a funding for many NGOs.

This is because government does not fully fund NGOs, even those that are providing state-mandated services. Analysis done by the National Treasury shows that government funding for social welfare services is low. NPOs experience up to a 71% funding gap. NGOs are reliant on funding and other support from philanthropies and multilateral development agencies, such as UNICEF, GIZ, and the EU.

These agencies have also been supporting government policy initiatives. For example, UNICEF supported the development of the 2012 National Action Plan for Children, the 2013 Programme of Action to Address Violence Against Women and Children and its revision in 2018, while GIZ, UNWOMEN and UNICEF supported the development of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and the interim gender-based violence (GBV) council structure.

International development partners and donors exert significant influence in domestic policy development, yet their mandates are often those of their funding government or founded in international frameworks. This can result in fragmented and uncoordinated funding of interventions and organisations working at cross-purposes.
In 2015 the loss in human capital due to experiences of violence during childhood was estimated at roughly R238 billion. That is almost double the annual budget spent on the criminal justice system (R92 billion for SAPS and R44 billion for courts and prisons in 2017/2018 budget).

Children in South Africa experience abnormally high levels of toxic stress, the cumulative consequence of exposure to chronic poverty, systemic inequality, endemic violence and widespread unemployment. These early childhood experiences impact brain development and social skills. Neglect, poor nutrition and exposure to violence negatively affects health, wellbeing and productivity, and make it more likely people will experience clinical illness, or abuse drugs and alcohol.

Toxic stress is particularly harmful for young children, and a major contributor to poor educational outcomes. 78% of South African children are unable to read for meaning in Grade 6, our learners score second worst globally in maths and science, and almost 50% of those who start school never matriculate.

There is now overwhelming evidence that the first few years of a child’s life will substantially determine their life course. Without coordinated and targeted interventions, young people are have little chance of existing cycles of intergenerational poverty and deepening inequality.
Economist Carmen Abdoll explains that preventing violence is a long-term process

To successfully promote evidence informed violence prevention requires addressing fragmentation and improving intersectoral relations. This is one of the problems the VPF was established to address.

If we fail to reduce and prevent violence, and create a caring and responsive state, we will also have little chance of breaking inter-generational cycles of poverty or ensuring that all people are able to fulfil their potential.

We need to realise the enormous investment that has and is being made into knowing what programmes and policies prevent and reduce violence; by working towards ensuring that these interventions are replicated and sustained over time.

"Grappling with the challenge of endemic violence is an essential part of overcoming the harms of our past to build a unified and prosperous society. If we want our country to be safe, we have to start paying greater attention to children’s needs. That means creating an enabling environment for love and warmth to replace anger, conflict and self-hate. It means building healthy relationships, between men and women, parents and children."

– Dr Chandré Gould in a speech during a visit to SA by World Childhood Foundation founder, Queen Silvia of Sweden

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