The Saartjie Baartman Centre recognised the importance of having a research programme soon after inception of the Centre in 1999. The Centre commissioned a preliminary research study, which identified the following as the main areas that needed to be researched:
- Documenting the history of the Centre;
- Looking at the economic empowerment of women within the context of trauma, focusing on the interaction between economic empowerment services and life skills programmes offered at the Centre;
- Investigating a standardised system of record keeping on clients of all partners;
- Looking at the possibility of compiling an archive of material for talks and articles to serve as a shared resource among partners; and
- Examining the merits of involving men in various roles at the Centre.
Documenting the history of the Centre was prioritised, as the intention was to compile a ‘manual of guidelines’, using the history document as its basis. Economic empowerment of women was also deemed to be important, as it was recognised that if women gained a measure of economic independence, they would be in a better position to make choices that affected their lives.
In 2004, the Centre employed a fulltime researcher who undertook the first research project, The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children: The story 1999-2004 (SBCWC Story). The project documents the history of the SBCWC from May 1999 – December 2004. The main objectives of the study are to have on record the rich ‘life story’ of the Centre and to provide the basis for the compilation of a ‘manual of guidelines’ for others wishing to replicate the one-stop centre partnership model.
The SBCWC Story recommends that the following research issues be addressed in the near future:
- Examining weaknesses in communication and exploring ways to improve the situation;
- Examining the Centre’s partner and staff monitoring and evaluation systems and structures to assess whether they are efficient and effective;
- Doing an evaluation of the Shelter and childcare centre to see whether they are achieving their full potential;
- Establishing a system of statistical data collection of partners’ client bases to ensure a source of readily available information;
- Establishing a tracking system to see what happens to women when they leave the Shelter and Centre, and thus assess the efficacy of the Centre’s programmes and projects in empowering women to make meaningful choice. Also, to examine the reasons why women return to their abusive situations; and
- Comparing the demographics of other shelters with those at the Saartjie Baartman Shelter.
The second document, Guidelines: how to ‘grow’ a one-stop centre, for replication of the one-stop centre model, was completed in 2005. The SBCWC Story formed the basis of the Guidelines document.
The third project, Economic empowerment of women survivors of gender-based violence (2006), assesses the effectiveness of the economic empowerment programme of the Saartjie Baartman Centre in empowering women with skills that could assist them in achieving a degree of financial independence.
Further, we have established a central database for all Centre and partner clients, which has enabled quick and easy retrieval of statistics. We are also embarking on a process of monitoring and evaluation of Centre and partner programmes/projects. The information will assist in developing new and existing services, and highlight successes and challenges experienced.