15. February 2019

Hanne’s Shelter: Legal and psychological support for women exposed to violence in South Africa

With support from The Kavli Trust, Law and Psychology education will be offered at Hanne’s Shelter.

Hanne’s Shelter is located in Gcilima, a village in the KwaZulu-Natal province, in the southern part of South Africa. A Community Education Centre will be established here as part of the shelter, where students of Psychology and Law can receive tutoring from experienced lawyers and psychologists.

The aim is to give sufficient help and support to women and girls exposed to and traumatised by violence. South Africa has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, and KwaZulu-Natal tops the national statistics.

Hanne Ekroll Løvlie (30) was a political scientist working as an executive officer in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Jon Vegard Lervåg (32) was a lawyer in the Ministry of Justice and Public Security when he was killed on 22 July 2011.

Compensation became memorial fund

Hanne’s Shelter was started with money from Hanne’s Memorial Fund. It is a trust fund managing the compensation given to the family of Hanne Ekroll Løvlie, who was killed during the terrorist attack on governmental buildings in the centre of Oslo 22 July 2011. The trust fund supports causes that were close to Hanne’s heart.

Hanne loved Africa, in particular South Africa. During her Masters in Political Science, she studied one semester at The University of Durban, the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal. Hanne returned many times and was acutely aware of the brutal situations in which many women in South Africa live. It became important for Hanne’s family, her brother Jørgen and her parents Kirsti and Olav Løvlie, to use the funds from her compensation here.

Hanne’s Shelter has the capacity for 25 women. A comprehensive activity and skills program is offered to the women residing in the shelter. During 2017, over 200 women visited the shelter.

Liv Tørres is together with the manager of Hanne’s Shelter, Busisiwe “Gloria” Nkoneyni. For many years Gloria has fought for women’s rights and for a place were victims of violence can feel safe.

In Hanne’s spirit

Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Centre, Liv Tørres, was a close colleague and friend of Hanne Ekroll Løvlie.

“I got to know her as a person deeply engaged in humanitarian and political issues in Africa, particularly the conditions for women in South Africa. We shared a common interest there,” Tørres says.

“Having lived and travelled a lot in South Africa, I understood her engagement. I also know just how acute problems are for many women and communities exposed to violence, poverty, corruption and abuse of power. It is in Hanne’s spirit that her family has built a shelter for vulnerable women,” she says.

In collaboration with the Impande Foundation, Hanne’s Memorial Fund began work on a refuge for traumatised women and girls exposed to violence. Over Easter 2016, in Gcilima, the doors opened to Hanne’s Shelter.

The steering committee in Hanne’s Memorial Fund together with the staff at Hanne’s Shelter.

Collaboration with Jon Vegard Lervåg’s Memory

Present at the opening were Signe Berit and Jon Inge Lervåg. Their son, Jon Vegard Lervåg, was also among those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the governmental buildings in the centre of Oslo the 22 July 2011. Like Hanne’s family, Jon Vegard’s family had created a foundation with the compensation they had received.

Jon Vegard Lervåg was a skilled, socially engaged lawyer. In his memory, his family wished to help people in South Africa access legal education, study law and to establish a law firm. The law firm would give internships to students, whilst helping the local population at the same time.

“During our stay they got to understand the needs for judicial competence at the shelter, and they decided to enter into a close collaboration with Hanne’s Shelter and Impande,” says Olav Løvlie.

Building expertise

Since its start in 2016, many victims of violence have received support from Hanne’s Shelter. In addition to being a safe place to stay where women are helped to overcome the trauma of violence, the shelter has also developed a program for the prevention of violence against women.

“For quite a while there has been a desire to bring more expertise to the shelter. With grants from Jon Vegard’s Memorial Fund and Hanne’s Memorial Fund, legal and psychological knowledge have been improved,” says Kirsti.

Jon Vegard’s Memorial Fund has given support and grants to many young people in education in the area. Hanne’s Memorial Fund has supported the building of relevant knowledge and improvements to the management structure at Hanne’s Shelter.

Huge need for support

During the spring of 2018, further plans were made to build more skills and knowledge. Violence, unemployment and poverty is widespread in KwaZulu-Natal. There is a huge need for support, particularly in the areas of post-traumatic treatment and legal aid to marginalised groups.

“We realised that if we were to increase our efforts, we needed to apply for funding from larger trusts. We had established contact with the Kavli Trust, and a hope was born that it would be possible to get a grant. That is when we gave the green light to build separate premises for the Community Education Centre,” says Olav Løvlie.

The Kavli Trust supports the establishment of the Community Education Centre with the allocation of 1.8 million kroner over three years from 2019 – 2021.

Local chief: “Criminal cases of family violence are dropped”

Local understanding and support from traditional chiefs is crucial for the work carried out by Hanne’s Shelter. The shelter is located just inside border of the Xolo-tribe’s land, and their highest chief, Inkosi M. Xolo, welcomes the project.

“We have a large problem with our judicial system. Killings, violence, particularly family violence are cases that the traditional council find are not handled correctly. As a result, they are often dropped,” says Xolo.

Inkoxi M. Xolo is a traditional chief for the Xolo tribe, and the elected leader among 28 traditional chiefs in the Ugu district. He supports the project.

Must be Zulu speakers

He stresses the importance of professionals in the project being able to speak Zulu, and to be at ease with working in rural areas. They must make the Education Centre well known to the local population.

“The traditional council will be a good strategic partner in making sure that the local community benefits from the project,” says Inkosi M Xolo, who is the elected leader among 28 traditional chiefs in the Ugu district.

Employing a lawyer and a psychologist

An experienced lawyer and a psychologist will be employed for the project. They will be the academic drivers in the endeavour. Prioritised areas will be supporting women who arrive at the centre, tutoring and supporting local students of law and psychology, stimulating more young people to take a law or psychology degree, further education of the staff at Hanne’s Shelter and raising awareness in the local community.

Everyone involved in the project is excited about all the opportunities the new Community Education Centre brings.

“I’m convinced that what is happening at the centre now, is in the spirit of Jon Vegard and Hanne,” says Liv Tørres.

Top photo: The staff at Hanne’s Shelter.