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‘Violence Mirrors Us’– Un Marking 16 Days Of Anti-GBV Activism

LESEGO NSWAHU NCHUNGA
The 16 Days of Activism Against GBV period ending November and beginning of December marks the 16 days of activism on violence against women.

The period is internationally recognised as a call to action to end the destructive impact of gender-based violence (GBV) on women and girls. The aim of the period is to bring together individuals, movements, governments as well as civil society institutions, to raise awareness on violence and abuse of women, to call for the prevention of said violence, as well as to rid society of abuse, permanently.

The theme for this years’ 16 days of activism is targeted at bridging the gaps and ensuring the provision, access and availability of essential services for survivors of violence, during the global pandemic. The theme further calls for urgent actions to fund, respond to and prevent as well as collect data to address GBV.

Over the 12 months leading up to the pandemic, 243 million women and girls aged between 15-49 were subjected to sexual and/or physical violence around the world. With the growth of the pandemic, and the responses or interventions to, the impact on women has growingly been observed. The impact is seen in women’s wellbeing, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and ability to participate and lead in the recovery of the world societies and economies.

The wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made response and research a challenge. The current conditions make reporting even harder. This compromises care and support that survivors need, including clinical management of rape, mental health as well as other forms of psychosocial support. The conditions create greater margins for impunity for the perpetrators as well, with many cultural practices not being in favour of women.

Frontline responders to GBV, including the Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, as well as Women Against Rape, anticipated the heightened rate of abuse over the season of COVID-19 responses and interventions.

With many women stuck or even trapped in their home with their perpetrators, and nowhere to run to, or really no option to run away, there was bound to be greater risk.

As UN Women observes, “COVID-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic shocks that we are struggling to rise above. The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity. We must not only survive the coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of

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recovery.”

Although a lot of efforts have been made by the country towards addressing gender-based violence in Botswana, in the public sphere little has been done to impact it in the private lives of Batswana. Much of the work done has been towards defining harassment and its power dynamics, as well as extending ‘indecent assault’ to include harassment in other locations beyond its previously perceived realms.

Botswana has made attempts to address GBV in private, through the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act, as well as its regulations. All these however, has done little to advance Botswana’s fight against the national problem of GBV, and specifically in the context of the home. This has been seen more apparently in the pandemic. The gaps in GBV prevention and response have resulted in a great many deaths and injuries.

Of course, the work towards the development of the sex-offenders registry as well as the efforts to consult with civil society and the national society at large have been notable. Unfortunately, in this season, where GBV has become a shadow pandemic, rearing its head as a greater ill than the pandemic threatens to grow into, it is with great disappointment that we observe resources and energy being used towards cycling and walking against gender-based violence, when so much more impactful work is necessary, and where there is clearly capacity to carry it out.

As this 16 days progress, one hopes that Batswana can reflect on ourselves and honestly confront the truths about ourselves which have become apparent in this period. We have, as a society, been present for, and been largely part of curating a society in our country where GBV is acceptable.

Our efforts towards ending should match the energies that have gone into the development of this very broken society.

As things stand presently, they don’t. Violence against women, in particular is growingly systemic and we seem to have accepted helplessness in dealing with it, thinking, speaking, cycling and doing sponsored walks will yield the results to change which are needed.

The single most common experience shared by women across the globe is family violence.

Rallying behind the movement demands that we completely re-consider and restructure the units within which abuse is experienced, and develop a safer “family” for women, in the process. In embarking on this mountain of a task, we have to ensure that women continue to be protected in challenging times such as these.



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