Women and children who are deaf or blind and are being abused now have access to the Gender Based Violence Command Centre – thanks to technology.

The Department of Social Development, in partnership with Vodacom, has launched the Gender Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) Disability Enhancement System to enable those who are deaf and blind to access the services of the centre.

The GBVCC, launched in 2014, employs social workers, who receive calls from members of the public and provide telephonic counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Disability Enhancement System, which was launched on Friday by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, includes the use of a Skype line for deaf victims, where they can communicate with trained social auxiliary workers to send a message. The two social auxiliary workers at the GBVCC are proficient in the use of Sign Language.

Deaf people can also text a message to the centre number 0800 428 428 to report a crime.

Abused women and children, who are blind, can use a panic button with a siren light to make a call to the command centre. When the siren goes off, the centre gets the distress message. Police can also co-locate the person in distress. The co-location is made possible via Vodacom.

Dlamini said the Disability Enhanced System has given the department an opportunity to access people with disabilities, especially deaf and blind women and children.

“Gender based violence amongst children and women with disabilities is also prevalent because they are part of South African society, which has a huge problem with the scourge of violence against women and children,” said the Minister.

She said the department is committed to the National Development Plan, which says that “we must be committed to sustainable development and end violence against women and girls”.

“It remains our responsibility to ensure that women and children with disabilities are not trafficked and exposed to harmful practices,” said Dlamini.

Deputy Director General at the Department of Social Development, Mzolisi Toni, said the enhanced system is about making sure that people with disabilities benefit from the department’s services.