Gender-based violence (GBV) cases in Botswana saw a slight increase during the extreme social distancing period that was imposed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In response to the lockdown trend, Inclusive Directions, a local non-governmental organisation, has partnered with Community Connections Botswana to start a call and text service centre aimed at reaching out to the disadvantaged and people living with disabilities.
Founded by Moffat Louis, Inclusive Directions Botswana aims to provide training and capacity building for grass roots community organisations providing direct care to people with disabilities, those supporting the elderly, sports programmes for disadvantaged groups and advocacy groups.
In addition to this mandate, Inclusive Directions Botswana organised a successful Botswana International Disability Seminar in March 2017, which brought together disability experts, practitioners and advocates from United States of America (USA), Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.
“People with disabilities face disability-related challenges such as communication barriers, mobility challenges, poverty, and dependency on others to get things done and for women and girls with disabilities the challenges are even worse since their reliance on others, exposes them to abuse by perpetrators who are usually close family members,” Louis said.
He added this is what prompted their interest in carrying out the project along with research that they carried out between 2017 and 2019 on GBV cases involving people living with disabilities, which they are using
Louis said they intend to look into domestic violence along with GBV cases involving people living with disabilities, which is why they would like to encourage the general public to support their efforts by reporting any suspected cases so they can be addressed properly.
He said they are currently engaged with the Office of the President so that they can launch the project today.
The project is expected to rapidly assist people with disabilities experiencing abuse, distress, and save lives.
It will also provide accurate information on the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also create a national database regarding needs and requests for specific social services, protection, and health services. Amongst some intentions, it will advocate for better service delivery for people living with disabilities and the protection of their rights.
As a network for professionals in the disability background that advocates for inclusive development in Botswana the organisation further aims to influence policy makers to include people living with disabilities in interventions sanctioned by government during the COVID-19 and beyond.
The US Exchange Alumni Network through the US Citizen Diplomacy Fund and Partners of the Americas Inc. supports the project.