She is only five years old and she had to be moved from her home to stay with relatives after she was molested by her uncle. He was not brought to justice because the family decided that the matter could be solved internally, the traditional way.
She was raped by her uncle, an adult who took advantage of a helpless five year old who, worse, had downs syndrome. This is a story that was narrated by Neo Thema. It is just one of the many stories about the plight of abused women and children in Botswana.
Thema, an Africa UNiTE ambassador, was speaking at the launch of a year-long partnership between United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and BotswanaPost at the GICC on Thursday. The UNFPA had partnered with BotswanaPost to launch a postal stamp titled “Say No To Gender Based Violence” in an effort to increase awareness about violence against women and girls.
Thema, a gender based violence (GBV) survivor herself, said being abused is a painful thing to go through and the victims always find it very difficult to survive.
“I’m also survivor,” she murmured “I survived because I couldn’t take it anymore.”
She said she survived with the help of her mentors, supportive friends and family.
She added that her work at Africa UNiTE is a calling.
“It is my obligation to see to it that an eleven year old who was denied school because it is against her religion gets the education she deserves,” she said.
She also revealed that the consequences of GBV are more painful after the ordeal than when it is actually happening.
“The flashbacks are the most painful,” she said.
For her part, Botlhale Mmopi of BotswanaPost said human rights cannot be trivialised because mothers, sisters, aunts and grannies should not have to live in fear. A 2012 survey on GBV found that at least 67 percent of women in Botswana have experienced some form of gender based violence.
“With women constituting 69 percent of our 700 members of staff at BotswanaPost, this would mean that just under a quarter of our total workforce has experienced some form of gender based violence, while the other three quarters would likely have a friend or relative who is a victim,” said Mmopi.
She said it would be amiss for BotswanaPost not to take a firm stand against this violation of basic human rights. Aisha Camara-Drammeh, UNFPA country representative, said although GBV has been generalised across the world, studies have shown that prevalence is higher in developing countries. She added that media reports indicate that murder and femicide are high in Botswana and more often than not the victims suffer in silence.
“This very culture of silence prompted the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to emphatically say that it’s time to break through the wall of silence and make legal norms a reality in women’s lives,” said Camara-Drammeh.
She said UNFPA puts every effort into breaking the silence and ensuring that the voices of women are heard. She also made reference to the 200 young girls who were recently kidnapped in Nigeria.
“This horrific and unbelievable act cannot be justified under any circumstances,” she said.