The 16 days of Activism have come and gone, but the major question is, have we transformed ourselves as society during this period?┬á
The 25th November, the day on which the Campaign starts, has its roots┬áon the First Feminist Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean held in 1981, that declared the 25th as an International Day Against Violence of Women and Children.
The protest day was called to commemorate the death of the three Mirabal sisters in 1960 at the hands of the Dominican dictator Rafeal Trujilo and to condemn violence against women.
The United Nations in 1999 then officially recognized the 25th of November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women And Children.
┬áAs it could be noted in the statement that we released┬áon the eve of the annual 16 Days of Activism┬áAgainst Women and Children, the Botswana National Front (BNF), as a progressive movement,┬áunreservedly aligns itself with the campaign for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children.┬á
┬áThere is, however, a danger that such an initiative, which comes yearly could become institutionalised and lose its meaning if there appears to be no tangible changes coming from the campaign. We must continuously strive for a society that values┬áwomen and children in society┬áand guards against┬áany form of violence.
Sadly, the violence that is reported daily in the media, that scars the development of many of our children, that results in women being traumatised and hospitalised, that creates a climate of fear for many of our citizens means that we cannot allow this campaign to become simply a date in our calendars, to be observed like a faded anniversary. As a nation, we should use the 16 days as a period of reflection and push for attitudinal change. The horrific stories that we get to know about (only┬áwhen you have people who have struggled over a period to muster enough courage to speak out) affect our dignity as a society and reflect how we are unable┬áto ensure that others┬áin society┬áare not subjected to violence, torture,┬átrauma and other forms of abuse. This does not paint a very encouraging picture. We need to speak out against violence and loudly for that matter, as silence further perpetuates violence.┬á
This type of abuse, which is targeting women and children, is relegating them to second class citizens and, therefore, should be treated as a serious human rights issue.┬á┬áWe should strive for a society in which Women and Children are valued.┬á This we can do if we┬áinsure that issues of women and youth┬áin all strata of society, including┬áthe family,┬áinstitutions of┬á learning and work place are offered a platform of expression and are quickly attended to and┬áresolved.
┬áWe can only do this by reviewing such aspects as our patriarchal culture as entrenched by the ruling class as well as look at an educational system that does not engender gender equalities. Poverty, unemployment, irrelevant and moribund educational system all connive to render feelings of insecurity and recklessness on the part of the male species.┬á Only a government with the capacity to transform our society can tackle these issues.┬á
Obviously and unfortunately, the BDP government has no┬ácapacity┬áto deliver on the much needed reforms.┬á They refuse to sign the relevant protocols and do not want to transform the education system, which┬áenhances the self esteem of our patriarchs.┬á
At┬áthe BNF, we believe┬áwe must accelerate and deepen our campaign for a more equal and caring society.┬áWe must try and build such a society by challenging gender stereotypes, and arguing for gender equality and an end to all types of discrimination. Violence against women and children is a human rights violation!┬á
The 16 Days Campaign provides an opportunity to find ways of stopping the destructive violence that takes place in our homes and communities, of ending sexual harassment, bullying and abuse at work and perhaps, more importantly, of sending a very clear message to the powerless and to the powerful, that gender based violence and democracy do not mix.┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬áThe┬áBNF, therefore, calls for┬áemphasis on Gender Equality┬áand Children’s Rights to┬ábe the language of Society in ensuring that we rid ourselves of this type of abuse. We have to make sure as┬áSociety┬áthat there is an ongoing programme that teaches young men on gender equality and build the confidence of young women to be able to negotiate and decide on their reproductive┬árights.┬á┬á
During the 16 days period, there is commemoration of World Aids Day.┬á It makes it relevant to say that sexual harassment is a form of violence and discrimination against women.┬áIt also has an influence on the HIV/AIDS statistics.┬á┬á┬á
We,┬átherefore, should look at┬áthe impact of HIV and AIDS as a result of violence on women and children.┬á The virus has a number of consequences for women, as they are not only more vulnerable to being infected but also have to bear the┬áburden of caring for the sick and orphans.
┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬áWe, therefore, call upon all members of society, organs of state, private companies and civil society to advance and strengthen their approaches and interventions against the violence against women and children as this remains the inhibitor of a progressive society that we should strive for. Patriarchal tendencies that tend to further oppress women and children should be dealt away with. As soon as┬áthere is┬áchange┬áof attitudes, the Justice system will become irrelevant and unnecessary in terms of┬ásanctions against perpetrators┬áas we will be having citizens who acknowledge and respect the importance of women and children in society.
┬áStrict┬álaws are not enough to arrest this problem, what is needed is education and social transformation. This can only be brought about by a government like the one that BNF promises, that takes a Sociological approach in dealing with these societal problems.
Information and Publicity Secretary
STOP THE VIOLENCE! SPEAK OUT! STOP THE VIOLENCE! SPEAK OUT!