When the alarm is set off at an ordinary house it is usually a sign of trespassing but when the alarm is heard at the home of women and child activist Lucinda Evans, it means a baby’s life has been saved.
In October last year, Ms Evans’ organisation Philisa Abafazi Bethu, in Lavender Hill, launched a “babe saver” at her home in Hilary Avenue (‘Babe saver meets a need’, Southern Mail, October 17, 2018).
On Saturday March 30, at 6am, the babe saver was activated when a healthy baby girl was placed inside.
The babe saver is an easy-to-use device built into a wall of Ms Evans’ home. Mothers can place the baby into the incubated saver and close the door, which automatically locks.
This will trigger an alarm and five responders will be notified. The first person to respond will have access to a baby room on the premises to get the baby stabilised and to contact emergency services.
After hospitalisation, the baby will be placed into foster care or in the adoption process as per the law.
Before the instillation of the babe saver, three babies had been abandoned at the house, which used to double up as the NGO’s 24-hour emergency safe house for abused women and children. There have also been a few cases reported where fetuses were found dumped in bins.
Ms Evans was overjoyed that the life-saving device had been used by a mother in need, saying they were emotional and grateful that the mom knew she would find help and support with Philisa Abafazi Bethu. She encouraged other mothers to not abandon their babies but to put them in the babe saver.
“We are committed to saving women and saving children, one child and one woman at a time. We are grateful that this baby is healthy and that she didn’t end up in a bin or drain. When and if the mother contacts us we will support her. We don’t judge as we understand sometimes where a woman in distress finds herself,” said Ms Evans.
She said no mother will be criminalised for protecting their babies by placing them in the babe saver.
“What choices did she have? We don’t know the pain women experience, being alone with a newborn with no support.”
Ms Evans said it was time to advocate for the protection for both women and children by creating pregnancy emergency safe houses for destitute moms or moms in distress.
“It is illegal in this country to surrender your child but this means that babies end up being dumped and murdered. We are also looking to advocate for laws that make women free to surrender their babies.”
Ms Evans said: “We have to think about what that woman is going through. What if that woman was raped and she doesn’t want this child? Where is that child going to end up and how is her life going to end up? If she puts the child in the babe saver at least she won’t kill the child by putting it in a bin or dumpsite. There is hope for that child but also hope for the mother,” said Ms Evans.
Dee Blackie, an adoption activist and an anthropologist who has a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), agreed that these laws needed to change. Ms Blackie’s thesis explored child abandonment and adoption in the context of African ancestral beliefs, which gives a detailed account of her plight to raise awareness of child abandonment.
She said: “People don’t feel that they can’t put their child into care because they don’t understand the adoption process and other issues relating to it so they would rather abandon them.
“We have a situation in South Africa where we don’t look after young women, We don’t look after them in terms of teaching them about sex education, when they fall pregnant, helping them to manage that process and many of them find themselves desperate and alone and they make very desperate decisi
ons, such as to abandon their
She said there were baby savers all over the world but in South Africa instead of supporting young women in this crisis stage, they were criminalised.
“Women leave children in unsafe spaces because if they try to leave the baby somewhere safe, they will be prosecuted. Criminalising child abandonment does not solve anything. We should be making it possible for these women to place children in care in a warm and loving environment so that when they do want to come back and get their child then they can, as with the babe saver. If we can’t keep children safe from falling pregnant, then at least let us give them an alternative to at least give that baby a safe space,” said Ms Blackie.
Ms Evans encouraged the mother of the baby to come forward and said no legal action would be taken. She also thanked her.
“Thank you for being beyond brave, thank you for coming to the babe saver, thank you for not placing your baby in a bin,
drain or bush. Thank you for entrusting me with the protection of your child and yourself. “The baby is in safe care but I also
wish to encourage the mother
For details, contact Ms Evans on 073 424 4665 or 021 802 4030.