November 25 marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Children under the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”.
Gender activists in Botswana are calling for a radical shift in approaches to ending violence during the 16 Days of Activism from November 25 to December 10 and beyond.
Gender violence is a symptom of a much deeper malaise in a society and it is an important sign of deep-seated gender inequalities.
Botswana commenced the 2017 campaign on November 24 in Goshwe village, Tutume Sub-district where a number of stakeholders took part in the launch. It was officiated by the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu. This year’s theme builds on the momentum of the preceding campaigns. It calls on everyone to ensure safety in education.
In 2016 over 4,000 school-going girls dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy. According to statistics given in an earlier speech by Basic Education minister, Unity Down, the youngest teenage pregnancy casualty was 10 years old. Other forms of violence suffered by girls include inadequate care and guidance in growing up, disproportionate domestic responsibilities, bullying, verbal abuse, defilement, incest, early marriages, rape, exploitation of deprivation by older males – exchanging sexual favours for material or financial gain and most regrettably – even loss of life.
Policy on access to education and retention in the education system for girls also needs to be reviewed.
Currently, the policies for girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy to return to schools but there is no support system for these girls e.g. child-care facilities, school support programmes and community (social norms and expectations) support care centres. The constitution allows for early marriage of girls by allowing religious and traditional marriages that are not covered by the Marriage Act. This needs to be reviewed to protect the girld child and keep her in school.
Society is the voice of the voiceless and we all have an obligation to decisively and courageously address these gender-based injustices.
Every opportunity grabbed to raise the bar for gender justice represents a real chance for a young Motswana girl to grow up and enjoy their school days without fear of her education being cut short and therefore
At the dawn of the 16 Days launch, the nation woke up to shocking news of the rape and killing of a nine-year old Standard 4 pupil, by the ex-boyfriend to her mother. There is no safety whether in homes or on the streets as violent crimes continue to increase in Botswana. As gender activists in Botswana, we strongly condemn such acts as barbaric, inhuman and crippling to the socio-economic development of this country.
We therefore call on all Batswana men and women, boys and girls, to stand up and strongly condemn such occurrences without reservation.
There is need to break the silence and for every community including schools to speak and act against violence on women and girls.
These are our daughters, nieces, cousins, mothers, aunts and grandmothers. We also call on the Government of Botswana to take steeper action against the perpetrators.
The school curriculum needs to be assessed for gender equality as currently textbooks and curriculum promote gender stereotypes and male dominance hence promoting power imbalance at formative ages of the children.
Finally, the issue of the register for child molesters should also be covered as implementation of the Children’s Act. We call for the full implementation of the Act. Let us all champion the change we desire to live and see in our communities. We should all rise up to the challenge of contributing towards a GBV free society where the young ones can enjoy their right to grow up and blossom in adulthood – knowing we are there to protect them. Yesterday during the launch of the HeforShe campaign, Members of Parliament committed to the elimination of GB amongst others and this is a step in the right direction.
Let us support them and hold them accountable.
A re hetogeng Batswana betsho.
Women Against Rape
Men and Boys for Gender Equality
International working Group on Women in Sports
Women and Men Against All Sexual Abuse of Children
Putting Women First Trust