Saturday, April 13, 2024

Athletes not spared from Gender Based Violence

Former Botswana basketball national team player, 37 year old Malebogo Molefhe  this week opened up to the Sunday Standard on her chilling near death experience in an effort to inspire women athletes to never give up on their dreams.

Molefhe played professional basketball in the national team until one day in 2009 when her late ex boyfriend shot her eight times and left her for dead before turning the gun on himself.

Molefhe said she saw this coming as theirs was a very volatile relationship.

She admits that there were many red flags and the union was a ticking time bomb. To date the left side of her body is not functional and she complains of excruciating pain.

“I cannot do anything for myself in terms of running errands and the like. I need assistance every minute of the day to get around so that life can go on. This is very costly as I had to hire somebody and pay them a monthly salary to fulfill the role,” she said.

“I sustained a lot of bullets all over my body some of which broke my ribs; one of them got to my spine, paralyzed and confined me to this wheelchair for life. I was hospitalized in South Africa for six months. I had to go through psychological, occupational and physical therapy as my entire being was damaged. Remember he had left me for dead and it was only by the grace of God that I lived,” she said.

“At the time I quit everything, I stopped playing ball, quit my job and my studies. I was shuttered both physically and emotionally. On realizing that I was never going to walk again, my whole life stopped. In fact even the doctors had told my parents that I would not live, that I would develop pneumonia and pressure sores which would eventually kill me. The furthest thing from my mind then was basketball,” she continued.

It took her seven years from the time she was nearly killed to gather what she describes as miraculous inner strength to bounce a basketball and to eventually play again.

“Once again by the grace of God I met other men and women who are living with disabilities but are very passionate about playing ball. We came together to form and register our team and called it Diamond Wheelers. We are all on wheelchairs and we have somewhat similar injuries,” said Molefhe.

She said being in the team has inspired her to look at the world differently and to discover a newer stronger her.

“However the wheelchairs that we are using are not even suitable for the sport. There is only one team in the country that plays with the right wheelchairs and it is in Ramotswa. We hope that one day we will also be sponsored with the same but until then we will continue to play despite the potential danger of injury,” she said.

According to recent statistics from United Nations, over two thirds of women in Botswana (67 percent) have experienced some form of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in their lifetime. In contrast, only 1.2 per cent of Batswana women reported cases of GBV to the police in the same period. Thus the prevalence of GBV reported in the survey is 24 times higher than that reported to the police. This suggests that levels of GBV are far higher than those recorded in official statistics and that women have lost faith in the very systems that should protect them as well as offer redress. Women athletes regardless of their social or financial status are not excluded from the scary statistics.


Read this week's paper