The Community Strikes Back: LDAs confront gender-based violence in South Africa

Communities self-organize to support gender-based violence survivors in rural South Africa.

An “Inform, Empower, Activate” story

A (not so) long time ago in communities far, far away, gender-based violence survivors had little to no assistance to deal with violence and abuse in South Africa. A new hope emerged when civil society started engaging with the cause, through organisations created to fight for social justice. Among them were community-based organisations, which work to protect community members’ rights and usually focus on gender-based violence (GBV).

Referred to as local development agencies (LDAs), these organisations are taking on a relevant role in preventing GBV in South Africa, assisting communities where resources are limited and public service provision barely exists. With the support from the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), LDAs have assisted several GBV survivors in rural South Africa. And now it is our time to join this rising force.

LDAs support GBV survivors in many ways. Through paralegal assistance, they offer survivors information on their legal rights, inform them about available legal options, assist with applications for protection orders, help them through the stages of a case, and engage with other service providers (such as the police and health care workers). LDAs also raise awareness to the GBV menace through campaigns and creative partnerships. Some agencies, for instance, partner with churches to change behaviour and beliefs, running praying sessions for the reduction of GBV. But the LDAs’ work goes beyond informing. The agencies’ staff also provide emotional support to survivors, not sparing personal resources when they are needed and, sometimes, even opening their homes to protect their clients from perpetrators.

LDAs’ work is so important because GBV cases require a multi-dimensional approach. GBV survivors have to deal with different service providers through their journey to legal justice. They need to collect evidence on the incident with healthcare workers, convince the police of their cases’ strength, arrange appointments with social workers and mental health professionals, while trying to move on with their lives. LDAs pressure these providers to deliver, and coordinate their resources to benefit their clients as much as possible.

Where OpenUp comes in

LDAs’ activities in South African communities have complete synergy with OpenUp’s mission: they inform, empower, and activate citizens. However, they still lack crucial resources to improve their own service delivery. That includes tools for better communication with survivors; mechanisms to increase and coordinate connections with stakeholders and other LDAs; and instruments to keep track of their cases, providing them with data and information for better decision-making. We are starting with the last resource.

Based on surveys and survivor journey maps, we will be constructing a new tracking system of GBV clients for LDA use. The system will help LDAs store information on their clients, making the case details easier to access. It will reduce the time spent with manual tasks and assist paralegals in keeping themselves well-informed of each case’s particularities. From an organisational perspective, the system will provide LDAs with aggregate data on clients, allowing them to visualise the main trends behind the cases and base decisions on them. 

With this and other forthcoming tools, we are hoping to contribute to LDAs’ impressive work, bringing the civic tech force to the efforts against GBV in South Africa.


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Communities self-organize to support gender-based violence survivors in rural South Africa.

An “Inform, Empower, Activate” story

A (not so) long time ago in communities far, far away, gender-based violence survivors had little to no assistance to deal with violence and abuse in South Africa. A new hope emerged when civil society started engaging with the cause, through organisations created to fight for social justice. Among them were community-based organisations, which work to protect community members’ rights and usually focus on gender-based violence (GBV).

Referred to as local development agencies (LDAs), these organisations are taking on a relevant role in preventing GBV in South Africa, assisting communities where resources are limited and public service provision barely exists. With the support from the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), LDAs have assisted several GBV survivors in rural South Africa. And now it is our time to join this rising force.

LDAs support GBV survivors in many ways. Through paralegal assistance, they offer survivors information on their legal rights, inform them about available legal options, assist with applications for protection orders, help them through the stages of a case, and engage with other service providers (such as the police and health care workers). LDAs also raise awareness to the GBV menace through campaigns and creative partnerships. Some agencies, for instance, partner with churches to change behaviour and beliefs, running praying sessions for the reduction of GBV. But the LDAs’ work goes beyond informing. The agencies’ staff also provide emotional support to survivors, not sparing personal resources when they are needed and, sometimes, even opening their homes to protect their clients from perpetrators.

LDAs’ work is so important because GBV cases require a multi-dimensional approach. GBV survivors have to deal with different service providers through their journey to legal justice. They need to collect evidence on the incident with healthcare workers, convince the police of their cases’ strength, arrange appointments with social workers and mental health professionals, while trying to move on with their lives. LDAs pressure these providers to deliver, and coordinate their resources to benefit their clients as much as possible.

Where OpenUp comes in

LDAs’ activities in South African communities have complete synergy with OpenUp’s mission: they inform, empower, and activate citizens. However, they still lack crucial resources to improve their own service delivery. That includes tools for better communication with survivors; mechanisms to increase and coordinate connections with stakeholders and other LDAs; and instruments to keep track of their cases, providing them with data and information for better decision-making. We are starting with the last resource.

Based on surveys and survivor journey maps, we will be constructing a new tracking system of GBV clients for LDA use. The system will help LDAs store information on their clients, making the case details easier to access. It will reduce the time spent with manual tasks and assist paralegals in keeping themselves well-informed of each case’s particularities. From an organisational perspective, the system will provide LDAs with aggregate data on clients, allowing them to visualise the main trends behind the cases and base decisions on them. 

With this and other forthcoming tools, we are hoping to contribute to LDAs’ impressive work, bringing the civic tech force to the efforts against GBV in South Africa.


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