The Centre for Criminal Justice's Community Outreach Programme operates in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. The project was initiated as part of the Centre's women and children's rights projects.
Innovation: It arose out of a need to help women and children gain easier access to justice and the protection of their rights. The main goals of the programme are to establish effective and sustainable victim support centres that will promote women and children's rights and provide gender related legal assistance to women in rural areas. The centre takes referrals from the police, magistrates' courts, traditional courts and community members. The Centre runs 12 Victim Support Centres throughout the province that provide counseling, advice and support. The project also conducts workshops and presentations and distributes information pamphlets in order to raise awareness of various socio-legal issues. The project is based at police stations and magistrates' courts in order to ensure easy access for the target communities. Community ownership of the project is encouraged by allowing the community to be involved in recruitment of staff to serve in the support centres.
Poverty Impact: The Centres provide a safe environment for victims, thereby reducing secondary trauma. The project started with 5 outreach centres in 1997 and has expanded to 12 centres in the 4 years in which the centre has been operational. Since its inception, the project has assisted 65136 community members to access the criminal justice system. More than 2 million people have been reached through the various awareness raising programmes.
Sustainability: The main obstacle to the centre's sustainability is funding as they are entirely funded by private and foreign donors and receive no financial support from government. They receive funds from Diaronia Sweden, the Open Society Foundation, the European Union and Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. They are currently lobbying the Department of Justice and the SAPS to include the project in their budgets.
Replication: The centre has produced an overview of a scheme for the establishment of victim support centres. The overview and modules contain work guidelines based on the successful functioning of the Centre for Criminal Justice's Outreach Programme.