Various stakeholders, amongst them women and children advocacy groups, have been called upon to join hands in ensuring that the growing number of children heading households in Ngamiland are reduced or done with.
Speaking recently at the annual Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NCONGO) stakeholder’s meeting, Pastor Garry Pelotshweu of Love Botswana Outreach Mission said most of these children are from dysfunctional families, whose parents have either neglected them or have left them in the care of younger siblings, who are themselves too young to run households or make decisions around the house.
It is within these households that domestic chores are shared according to age and ability, and carried out by minors whose efforts and responsibility far surpass their years.
Because of the many camps in the delta where their parents spend most of their time working, children in Maun and its environs are used to staying alone and have been forced to weather life’s storms at a very young age.
However, numbers show that most are orphaned and have been left to fend for themselves. Young girls have, for this matter, fallen prey and have become vulnerable to sex predators who take advantage of the different predicaments the young girls find themselves in, leaving them with a lot of emotional baggage which they adopt at a very early age.
“This is the painful truth we face here, and Ngamiland District particularly, has been inundated with these cases, which we feel should be dealt with in the most suitable way and in due time.
There is also urgent need to strengthen the capacity of families so as to protect and care for orphans and other vulnerable children by providing economic and psychosocial support,” said Pastor Pelotshweu. “Furthermore, there is also urgent need for us to see to it that platforms for child participation through child protection committees as well as family and community-based interventions for children at risk are created. We are also faced with challenges such that at the age of 18, children still find it difficult to sustain themselves, hence the need to collaborate and see if there are other measures in place that can assist.”
Pastor Pelotshweu encouraged Batswana to learn to sign up for fostering and adoption of children, most of whom he said are stuck at centers and hospitals across the country where they miss and are in dire need of proper parental love.
He said that, unlike foreigners, Batswana are showing or seeing no need to adopt, something which he said makes these children feel left out as they now have to be moved from one institution to the other every now and then as there would be no one showing any interest in taking them in.
“Records show that many of our children are still being abused and, believe me, our diamonds and animals get more protection as compared to children here. My plea, therefore, is that we need to be forced and compelled to protect them with the little that we have,” said Pelotshweu. “It is also saddening that even in a harmonized country like ours, there are still children who, because their parents having passed on or neglected them, still go to bed on an empty stomach while help is always within reach.”
Another issue which was raised was that of property grabbing, which has become very common among neglected or orphaned children. It is always done deliberately by perpetrators with legal representation.
Participants questioned the justice system, particularly in instances whereby conviction rates for offences regarding children are very low, leading to these perpetrators always winning such cases, more especially when proper documentation has not been done and most cases, no matter how critical, not reported.
Also speaking at the meeting was NCONGO Executive Director, Monametsi Sokwe, who said although their relationship with other partners is satisfactory, they, as the umbrella body, sometimes do not get reports from members, which therefore makes their work a little complicated as they would not know whether they are progressing or not.
He pointed out that they are hopeful that, as they move on, they will be able to improve on that aspect. He advised all their partners that they should, for the betterment of their organizations, always ensure that they manage their finances accordingly and always seek assistance whenever that need arises.
“We are grateful that you have heeded our call to attend. Your participation in forums of this nature is also admirable. You need to know, however, that it is only through feedback from yourselves that we will be able to move forward. So let us know what you are going through and the challenges you come across, whether negative or positive, so that we might be able to address them as they come and at the most appropriate time,” he said.