Financial education crucial for victims of domestic abuse

14 Nov 2017
While the annual "16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children" (which runs from 25 November to 10 December) raises awareness of gender-based abuse, the effective empowerment of women and children calls for ongoing education and long-term strategies.

Violence against women remains prevalent in South Africa with a recent report by Statistics South Africa and the South African Medical Research Council showing that 21% of women over the age of 18 have experienced violence at the hands of a partner.

John Manyike, Head of Financial Education at Old Mutual, believes that women who are financially independent or have a good financial understanding are more likely – and better equipped - to leave an abusive situation.

According to Domestic Shelters, women in abusive relationships are also often victims of economic abuse. “In these instances women have limited access to money and are kept out of the loop of all financial matters, effectively leaving them feeling powerless,” explains Manyike. “Financial education can play a key role in empowering victims of domestic abuse to stand up for themselves. Being financially savvy can give women the courage and means to leave a destructive relationship.”

Manyike says there are three steps to financial independence:

1. Know your financial situation

Don’t rely on your partner. Knowledge is power. Make sure you know exactly how much you are spending on household items by keeping track of every expense. “Once you have a record of what you actually earn and spend your money on, you can plan how to change your spending habits to suit your income and future goals. This knowledge gives you the power to change. Budgeting is a simple skill that everyone can learn and master,” says Manyike.

2. Save as much as you can

Financial empowerment leads to freedom. Save as much money on a monthly basis as you can. “Even if you have to start with small amounts, you will be developing a good savings habit and the small amounts will compound into bigger amounts. By taking the first step it will make it easier to increase saving over time,” advises Manyike.

3. Educate yourself

Women often stay in abusive relationships because they are vulnerable and dependent on their partners financially. “However, when you have financial knowledge and understanding, you are more likely to make the kind of decisions that will give you options for an independent future for you and your children,” says Manyike. Old Mutual offers a comprehensive online programme called On the Money, which provides sensible money advice, including easy ways to create a savings habit. “The programme is accredited by Bankseta and NQF aligned,” he says. “By focusing on actual behaviour change, it helps to break the cycle of generational poverty and focuses on getting people out of debt traps.”