USRG ENDGBV multistakeholder engagement highlights the value of collaborative learning

  • 16 May 2023

USRG ENDGBV multistakeholder engagement highlights the value of collaborative learning – Blog

The Urban Safety Reference Group (USRG) recently hosted a Gender Mainstreaming and GBV Prevention workshop which brought together city officials from 7 South African metropolitan cities and their counterparts from the ENDGBV Unit within the New York City Mayor’s Office, an intervention whose mandate is to end domestic and Gender-Based Violence in the city.  

With the funding and technical support of the US diplomatic mission in South Africa, together with the GIZ Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP) and Global Affairs Canada, the workshop aimed to facilitate shared learning, exchange and to improve municipal practitioners’ understanding of the concepts and principles of, gender transformation and intersectionality, with the view of strengthening local government’s capacity to mainstream such approaches in their planning, strategising, budgeting and implementation. It was also an opportunity for participants to collaboratively identify useful approaches to evidence-informed GBV prevention and find opportunities for knowledge sharing.  

The workshop took place on 14-15 March 2023 in Johannesburg and forms part of a collaboration between the South African Cities Network (SACN), the US Embassy Public Diplomacy APS Programme and the NYC ENDGBV office. Four workshops, made possible by a grant from the US Embassy, are planned. These are part of a broader process of capacity enhancement and peer-to-peer learning on gender transformative approaches and GBV prevention by the USRG under their to programme of work in theme of Gender Mainstreaming and GBV Prevention for the period 2022 – 2024.  

Other than introduction to key concepts, the USRG also identified the need for enhanced municipal capability to leverage data in understanding GBV and and to formulate appropriate evidence-based interventions to combat it. In pursuit of deeper embedding of the desired approaches it is important for cities to share experiences, exchange and learn from best practices in data indices, data collection methods, evidence-based interventions and to seek partnerships that enable this. The long-term aim is to strengthen and build relationships between cities in the US nd South African Cities, underpinned by shared values.  

Amongst the participants were representatives from the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, City of Ekurhuleni, eThekwini Municipality, City of Johannesburg, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, City of Tshwane, , along with officials from the End GBV Office  in New York City.  

Siphelele Ngobese, a researcher at the SACN opened the workshop and invited participants to share their experiences and existing responses to GBV in their cities. In a facilitated conversation, participants engaged with each other on similarities and differences in approaches. 

“Based on learning exchange and engagement, we have realised there is a deep need to support Cities and learn from them about how to embed gender in the work they do to combat gender-based violence. Cities that are safe for their most vulnerable inhabitants are cities that are the most inclusive”, she said.  

“We want to use this process to learn about integrating knowledge and maximizing support for anti-GBV initiatives. This is an opportunity for all of us to share our learnings and look at what works in other contexts.” 

Amie Molelekwa, who works as a contract manager in the Manguang Metro Municipality’s Human Settlements Department had important insights to share from a city practitioner's perspective. Amongst his responsibilities is grant reporting and implementation.  

“One of the key things I have learnt at this workshop is that many of our programmes may well have been gender blind as we have not mainstreamed gender issues in our work. As Human Settlements we provide basic services but in some instances, we have not centred gender issues and approaches that contribute to GBV prevention and which empower women”.  

For Molelekwa, interventions have often been designed in a way that did not give proper thought to how they contribute to creating safer spaces and, ultimately, preventing GBV.  

“We design a lot of community facilities without thinking about the soft issues that these sorts of interventions can resolve.” 

Siphendule Dweba is a programme manager for the women’s caucus in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. Dweba hoped to learn best practices that she could implement in her work and network with likeminded practitioners.  

The concept of gender blindness was a new discovery for Dweba, as she now understands the importance of placing gender at the centre of municipal planning, particularly as it relates to community safety and gender-based violence reduction.  

“When you’re doing your planning, there are lots of factors to consider, like is it safe for women? The same goes for parks and other public spaces. I used to think of them as a space for children but through my interactions here I have realized the value of gender mainstreaming when it comes to planning such facilities and the effect this has on safety”, she says.  

Cecile Noel, the ENDGBV Commissioner in the Mayor of New York’s office, spoke on the common issues of gender-based violence in South Africa and the United States (with specific focus on New York City), touching on parallels in histories of oppression that inform all forms of violence. 

“GBV is a public health crisis all around the world. Even though the dynamics in New York City and South African cities are different, the dynamics around GBV are similar and have similar drivers. History informs violence, we see today and violence on the streets is preceded by violence in the home”, she explained.  

“Our efforts to halt GBV are tied to efforts to ensure community safety overall. Together we must all continue to grow, learn and adapt.” 

Noel said ENDGBV was continually focused on the power of collaboration, whether it be with other government partners, policy makers and legislators or the wider community,  and engagements in platforms like the USRG. 

Participants at the workshop also had the opportunity to engage with the boardgame Indawo, a learning tool for co-designing safer communities through planning an area-based approach to violence prevention in South Africa. The game  encouraged participants to apply their understanding of gender transformation and intersectionality concepts  while also learning about integration and the co-design of violence prevention in a set geographic space  through simulating intervention in a neutral community .  The game prompts players to consider how to include diverse stakeholders and perspectives in decision-making when designing area-based, integrated violence preventions programmes in general, but particularly gender-based violence prevention programmes. 

What is the Urban Safety Reference Group 

The Urban Safety Reference Group (USRG) was established in early 2014 as a forum to enable practice-based learning on the theme of urban safety and violence prevention to inform urban policy, planning and management. The platform, which brings together city practitioners in the area of public or community safety; together with counterparts from National departments with a role in safety promotion, is convened by the SACN  with the support of the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention programme (VCP), which is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Global Affairs Canada on behalf of the governments of Germany, South Africa and Canada. 

The USRG is premised on the unique position of local government to play a leading role in driving developmental approaches to preventing violence and crime that complement and extend beyond conventional security approaches such as policing, law enforcement or the reliance on private security firms. 

The USRG also provides a basis for cities to collectively raise the profile of the topic of urban safety nationally, and advocate the necessary policy, legislative, institutional or fiscal reforms to empower cities and local government more generally to make a pro-active contribution to violence and crime prevention. 

The Urban Safety Reference Group’s core objectives are to: 

• serve as a platform for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing amongst practitioners on urban safety; 

• provide a space for regular interaction and networking between city practitioners and national departments directly relevant to the governance of urban safety; 

• serve as a mechanism to identify topical matters requiring lobbying and interaction with other spheres of government, the private sector and other stakeholders; and 

• provide a contact point for structured engagement between South African municipalities and international urban safety networks. 

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