As has been explored at great length, the rate of gender-based violence (GBV) and more particularly, violence against women and intimate partner violence appear to be at their worst, in all the world’s history.
A few articles ago, centering indicators in the 2018 Botswana Relationship Study, we established that over 90% of adults who are either survivors or perpetrators of GBV or intimate partner violence grew up experiencing violence, themselves. One of the facts that we usually do not discuss violence is that it knows no social or even economic boundaries. It occurs in the developed global north at almost the same rate as in the global south. The amount that each government spends in responding to GBV is so much, though, that it has been discovered, in some countries to be double what is spent on education. There is great need to intensely delve into the problem, through research and learning.
There is also a gap in collaborative investment in the effective prevention of violence of this sort. Most money in this area is spent in punitive measure against perpetrators, despite the seemingly increasing reports on the matter. One might argue that this is as a result of the single story, argued, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to be dangerous.
She proposes that, because our lives and cultures are composed of many overlapping stories, giving the same solutions for global problems risks ‘critical misunderstanding’. In the context of Botswana, we risk responding in the ways that the colonial West left for us.
In addition to the many efforts that have to be made by the State, however, this piece will explore a list of things that we, individually, can do, over the next 16 days. Building on last year’s theme, Orange the world: #HearMeToo, this year’s theme faces the growing problem of rape in the global community.
Rape is complex, not because consent is vague and unascertainable as some people might suggest; but it is complex because it is rooted in conceptions of power, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, as well as control. These perpetuate and cultivate an environment that is conducive for sexual violence. This year’s theme is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!” In 2018, 16 actions were suggested by the United Nations, for individuals to get involved in the fight against [sexual] GBV.
Having gone through the list, and realising that they remain relevant, this week we will explore four of them, which remain relevant even with the current theme. These, I dare say, are universal truths, and are necessary, for all of us.
- Listen to survivors
At the heart of all manner of support that can be offered to a survivor, is listening to them, hearing them and believing their story. It takes great courage for an individual to share their personal experience with GBV. Every survivor deserves a listening ear, free of judgement.
- Know the facts
Facts offer the foreground on which support can be offered. It also goes a long way in dispelling many myths about GBV. One of the most well known misconceptions is that women frame men in many cases. Understanding, for example that one in three women in Botswana experiences sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, frames the ways in which one perceives and interacts with GBV.
It can influence a shift in mindset, knowing that all 38% of women can surely not be abused by the same men. The context, terrifying as it may seem, offers a reality on which we can engage with prevention work as well as enhance responses to GBV knowing that it will not end unless we all take part in fighting it.
- Share your story
Sharing stories and experiences of GBV is often a powerful tool for raising awareness and shedding a spotlight on the actual challenges faced by women. Storytelling is also a way of sharing compelling facts and offering very specific context necessary for developing response strategies. It is a way of educating girls and empowering them to tell their own story. This is the only way that the exact extent of the problem will be realised. This is important at such a pivotal moment as the present.
- Buy from women entrepreneurs
Money matters! And honestly, this may be the easiest thing to know and understand, yet still the most ignored. Many women remain in relationships that exhibit patterns of abuse, because they are economically dependent on their partners. This economic power is easily used to retain control over survivors, and subjects women who may want to leave, to staying in abusive cycles.
Buying from women entrepreneurs also enables survivors to rebuild their lives after walking out of abusive relationships, or as they plan to leave.
Botswana has the potential of building a strong “marketplace” for locals. Often, locally produced products are far more affordable than those we purchase from a well-established store. The consciousness that “this feeds a family” is critical.
The above are merely pointers that may be helpful in your taking part.
The reality is that if we are dishonest with ourselves and allow ourselves to believe the myths of GBV, if we fail to listen to and believe survivors when they share their story, if we turn a blind eye to the facts and fail to support women’s businesses, we could very well be going a long way in ensuring that efforts are keeping us in a hamster wheel of sorts.
We need to break out of the cycle of abuse, collectively. That starts with small individual reflective steps.