24 August 2021 – People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) will officially launch its revived Legal Department at the Johannesburg Central Magistrates Court on 26 August 2021. The launch will be attended by representatives from domestic violence sections, maintenance, the Department of Social Development and a few other partner organisations. Magistrate Olivier will also be speaking about her day-to-day experiences while presiding on domestic violence matters.
The POWA Legal Department was closed due to lack of funds, but with funding from the Ford Foundation, will now be able to resume its services of providing survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) with much-needed legal services and support that is free of charge.
POWA is a feminist, non-profit organisation that was established in 1979. It provides advocacy, skills development opportunities, counselling, legal advice, sheltering and court support services to GBV survivors.
Disemelo Tlali, POWA’s Legal Manager, says: “As an organisation, our aim is to provide quality women-centred legal services and engage in national and regional advocacy for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. We have a survivor-centred approach and strive for a safe and equal society intolerant of all forms of violence against women and girls, where we are treated with respect and dignity and our rights are promoted. South Africa has some of the highest rates of GBV in the world and the Legal Department is critical to ensuring women receive the justice and security they deserve. Its importance cannot be overemphasised.”
Before the Legal Department’s revival, GBV survivors needing legal services were referred to various organisations for assistance for a number of years. Prior to its closure, the Legal Department had been running for several years so has a wealth of knowledge and insight to draw from to ensure survivors receive effective and efficient services.
The POWA Legal Department, which is made up of Legal Manager, Disemelo Tlali, a Legal Advisor, Teboho Mashota and two paralegals, Rachel Hlatshwayo and Nrozabo Ndhlovu, has various core objectives. They are ensuring women’s human rights are recognised, protected, promoted, and fulfilled, holding the state and private bodies accountable for violating women’s rights and providing education through outreach sessions, talk shows and training on women’s rights, legal channels to follow if these rights are violated as well as ways in which women can protect themselves.
Additionally, the department delivers legal advice on sexual and other GBV matters, assistance with applying for divorce as well as maintenance and protection orders and joining as amicus curiae (a friend of the court) on pressing matters.
As well as these services, the department provides court preparation and court support which includes accompanying women to court and assisting women to fill out court documents as required and collaborates with other strategic partners in realising women’s rights by assigning legal volunteers at various courts and police stations. As part of its work to support survivors, the Legal Department will also organise for POWA staff and the broader community to picket outside court during cases.
“We are committed to ensuring we work on cases we receive with dedication, compassion and professionalism,” says Disemelo. “The Legal Department doesn’t only provide women with legal advice, it also empowers them to understand how the legal system works, so enabling them to better navigate it. We also inform them of what to expect when they go to court, police stations and apply for protection orders. In addition, we carry out monitoring to determine whether a survivor has met with the prosecutor, if the court system is friendly to women and if survivors are being treated fairly.”
While the bulk of cases the Legal Department deals with are a wide spectrum of domestic violence cases, it also works on numerous sexual harassment matters.
In working to ensure survivors receive a holistic service that meets their range of needs, the department refers those needing counselling to POWA social workers. In this way, they receive psychological and emotional assistance to have the confidence, strength and tenacity to take on the justice system with POWA’s support.
Consultations with the POWA Legal Department can be carried out either face-to-face or telephonically at no cost to survivors.
To contact the POWA Legal Department, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (011) 642 4345/6.