Sitting alone at a standpipe in Maun’s Matlapana ward recently, looking frightened and confused as evening slowly set in, a primary schoolgirl’s obvious anguish brought her to the attention of villagers.
After gentle questioning, they realised she was terrified to go back home. The traumatised child claimed she was being sexually molested at home.
According to the area’s Chief, Kgosi Bontsibokae, there are numerous young girls in the North West facing similar fears relating to Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Bontsibokae was speaking at an event organised by Botswana Sector of Educator’s Union (BOSETU) in Maun last week, where he appealed to men to stop destroying the future of girls by using them for sex.
In the past four months, 82 cases of defilement were reported in North West alone. In that time within the district, 49 women were raped, five were murdered while ‘threat to kills’ were uttered against 11.
“You will note that the above mentioned cases are only reported cases,” stressed the District Council’s Chairperson, Kebareeditse Ntsogotho, warning the actual number of GBV incidents was potentially substantially higher.
He revealed the alarming statistics on Monday when opening the full council meeting.
Labelling GBV a ‘social pandemic’, Ntsogotho said the numbers prove ‘perpetrators live among us!’
“Most of us have one way or the other witnessed or heard narrations of different forms of these horrendous incidents,” noted Ntsogotho, who pleaded with the community to seek help when facing problems instead of bottling things up and resorting to violence.
It is well documented that North West District is a culturally diverse region. Besides police, schools and clinics in the region are better placed to explain the gravity of GBV among children in the area.
Union Secretary for Secondary Schools under BOSETU, Thomas Kajuu, says children in the region drop out of school in high numbers because of problems related to culture.
“It is a culture that violates the Children’s Act, an act that was established to protect the rights of the children,” stated Kajuu, adding many violate these rights ‘out of ignorance’.
Last week, village elders from Disana and Boseja wards met to discuss GBV-related matters at their annual gathering, which is facilitated by a social club for elderly, Bagolo Khumo ya Ngwao.
The society’s Chairperson, Girlia Mokgweetsi, explained they called the elders so that they can have a say in the GBV issue and help come up with workable solutions to the problem.
“It is very rare, if at all it happens, for an elderly couple to fight so we want them to share their secrets to healthy, long and peaceful relationships,” highlighted Mokgwetsi.
While educators insist there is need to empower the girl-child on defence mechanism so they can protect themselves from abuse, legislators argue women need financial independence.
The elders, however, maintain the country should go back to the drawing board and address issues of moral decay.
“Civiliasation has brought rampant change and frowned on tradition and culture. Men and women no longer have defined roles in their homes. Women are more independent, so even wives no longer perform their duties. A husband can get up in the morning, heat up water, prepare breakfast and clean up while the wife sleeps with crossed legs in the bedroom! These things were unheard of in the past!” laments one of the pensioners, Leole Moxabara.
Criticising the hot-headed youth of today, Mokopi Moxa noted that men have always been providers, but in the past they would no turn violent and demand compensation should the affair sour as is often the case now.
“We were given 10 thebe. That was hard cash to get during those days, but a man would not kill you for it if you decide to end things with him. We respected our elders and we met in secret not in public as it is happening these days.”
Offering an alternative view, Evans Samaono feels young people take too much marijuana hence they become violent at the slightest provocation.