Non-governmental organizations in Botswana are inundated with high Gender-Based Violence cases, child abuse and the lack of resources to mitigate effects that come with these.
Last week Parliament of Botswana began its Parliamentary Caucus on Women meant to discuss with various stakeholders on issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Gender Equality and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
The committee led by Dr Unity Dow as the chairperson, has eight (8) members, of which five (5) are members of cabinet, three (3) being ministers and two (2) assistant ministers, two (2) members of the back bench and one (1) male member of parliament from the opposition.
One of the mandates of the committee is to improve the position and status of women within the purview of laws, rules, regulations, policies and programmes and promote the adequate representation of women in all elective bodies, and decision-making positions.
Appearing before the committee last Thursday, the Botswana Gender based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, formerly known as Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter, Director; Lorato Moalusi said there was a need for a Perpetrator Rehabilitation Program, where people are sentenced to a six month’s rehabilitation program instead of taking them to prison.
“It has a bearing on the law but I feel like we are addressing the symptoms whilst the root causes and the cases are getting more and more horrendous.” Said Moalusi.
She even went on to suggest that there may be a need to conduct a study to see what is happening in families/homes in this country.
Moalusi says apart from government they depend on international donor funding to run their shelters. She indicated that government only gives them 7% financial assistance of what they initially ask for and the rest they have to ask from donors.
“Ministry of nationality and gender affairs which is our line ministry is one of the ministries which is allocated the lowest budget but the problem of GBV is looking straight into our eyes and it is going to require us to have adequate resources for us to be able to do prevention work as well as response work, I am asking your committee to look into this issue and how it can be approved. We receive a subvention from the ministry, the subvention is 7% of what we need to run fully fledged programs and if no other donor comes on board it means we are unable to run some of these programs.” Moalusi explained.
She noted that another problem was that it takes long to litigate GBV cases and that is why some people end up withdrawing their cases.
Most of their other challenges lie in shortage of human resource and finance which means they cannot cover the whole country on issues of GBV.
Another predicament they are often faced with is that they only take boys below the age of 13 but they sometimes find themselves having to turn away boys who are 14 years because they do not make the cut.
“Boys that are over the age of 14 years are still living with their parents and sometimes we have to find alternatives but those alternatives are not easy to come by so we find ourselves turning down boys that are over 13 years.” She noted with concern.
Abrupt disruption or discontinuation of services due to termination of funding by international donors was also mentioned as one of the challenges as well as allocation of land in order to build shelters across the country.
For her part the minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Peggy Serame noted that there is need to expand cultural dialogue because sometimes culture dynamics cloud people’s thinking as some things can be easily mistaken as culture norms.
Whilst member of Parliament for Kgalagadi North, Talita Monnakgotla said it was important for Dikgosi and elders to maybe re-think the way they advise men and women during lobola negotiations, as some of the advises given during this ancient traditional practice can have a negative bearing effect on how married couples treat each other.
From Stepping Stones International, Programme Coordinator; Chirwa Matlhoko said handling and responding to GBV in relation to child and sexual abuse is an area that they have been doing for the past 7-8 years, and led researches on to which they have come to the conclusion that it’s an organized crime because in his own words “you just don’t wake and sexually abuse children” so he noted that it needs an organized response as well.
In a very emotional presentation, Matlhoko stated that they work with the vulnerable children.
“We choose those ones because we believe any child can amount to anything they dream of, sometimes we work with the difficult ones, all our programming is meant to support all those.” He said.
He said there was a need to have access to child friendly justice and an agenda in parliament that speaks solely to GBV and child protection.
For her part, Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Annah Mokgethi said the family setup in Botswana urgently needs attention.