The prevalence and normalisation of Gender Based Violence comes under the spotlight as Botswana marks 16 Days of Activism. In a culture where many accept violence as regular, Mmegi Correspondent, NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE uncovers the stories of those brave enough to face up to their bullies and the ‘norms’
Sharing their pain and agony with the nation, helps some GBV survivors gain strength and hope for the future. Gender Links Botswana annually surveys some of these women and publishes their stories in the form of ‘I’ Stories.
This year, the stories are from women across 10 districts of the country, who have shared their pain, ordeals and frustrations.
In the series, Tsabotlhe Lure, a 43-year-old woman from Sekwadila ward in Bobonong narrates how the man she loved as her husband bullied her. Her husband would tell her that he married her so that she could do whatever he wanted her to do. According to Lure, her husband always spent nights away from home engaged in extra marital affairs. One night, he brought something back.
“He would leave me and spend nights away from home with other women and then he got infected with HIV. After he discovered that he was HIV positive, he hid his hospital cards and never disclosed his status to me. He had sex with me without using a condom. In 2000 I fell pregnant and the baby was born HIV positive. That is when I found out that I was also infected,” Lure relates.
Despite all this, she learnt that as long as one is alive, giving up is not an option. She started a business to take care of herself and her children. Lure’s husband has since passed on and the widow says her life is better off without the abuse.
“I had a passion to sell products but I did not know how to run a business. Gender Links business training changed my life because I can sell without feeling any shame to make a living for my children.”
Doris Koloi from Chobe, is a foreigner who married a Motswana in 1995. She relates how she enjoyed her marriage for only two years. In 1998 her husband started showing his true colours. He became physically, verbally and emotionally abusive towards her.
“He started to not fully support at home. He would disappear from home at payday and come back only when he was broke. When he arrived home, he would ask me about footprints in the yard and beat me thoroughly, insulting my parents and me. He always reminded me that I was a foreigner.”
“If I asked him to buy us food he would say he would rather buy food for his girlfriends. He would tell me to ask my boyfriends to buy me food even though he was the one cheating. He even said the kids were not his, saying that I got them from prostitution.”
Koloi highlights that
The physical abuse continued meanwhile, Koloi writes;
“The sour life of mine with my children went on until I decided to go back to court and ask for a restraining order because life was just horrible. However, he did not stay away from the yard completely as he had been ordered. Instead, he walked in and out as he pleased and the abuse continued. One day I visited the S&CD offices for help. I was lucky to be introduced to Gender Links that very day in 2013.”
Koloi started attending workshops where she shared her problems with others, and learnt how to handle her problems. She later attended business training.
“This has been helpful because now I have a lot of ideas of how I can make a better living. In the meantime, my relationship with my husband is better. I ended up restraining myself and kids from him in order to live a safer life,” she notes.
She advises people in abuse not to keep the issue a secret as they could die young or end up being crippled. Koloi urges those suffering in silence to reach out for the various programmes out there in order to improve their lives.
Matlhogonolo Dirang, a 33-year-old from Papatlo in the Barolong farms, joined Gender Links workshops in 2014 where she learnt about different issues that affect people’s daily lives. Before joining the NGO, she too was in an abusive relationship.
“I did not know where to go for help at the time. I was experiencing emotional and sexual abuse that was so bad that I finally had to end the relationship particularly because the man I was having a relationship with was threatening to kill me then kill himself. I had no one to reveal these things to until I came across Gender Links,” she noted.
Dirang said after learning how to become an entrepreneur, she started a business doing laundry in the homes of some employees.
“The business also provided me with pocket money and I found myself able to buy things without relying on anyone. In our village there is a serious shortage of water and as a result, my business suffers but I do not give up,” she said.
Dirang has since met a new love and is looking forward to a bright future.