Sisonke Botswana and Success Capital Organisation will continue their partnership and solidarity in collaboration by commemorating International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and launching 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (16 Days).
Anchored on an intersectional feminist praxis, the two grassroots organisations in partnership with other civil society organisation (CSO)s, hosted a two-day workshop addressing inequalities, challenges and aspirations of communities that are most at risk of structural and variant forms of violence, exclusion, stigma and discrimination. This includes the organisations’ primary constituents, including sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and gender diverse (LGBTI+) youth, along with members from ethnic minority, migrant, disability and neurodivergent communities.
Botswana is registered as the highest globally in reported rape incidents,1 having moved from second place amidst the hard lockdowns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the longest states of emergency. Botswana’s National Relationship Study (2018) reported at least 37% of women having experienced some form of violence, higher than the global average of 35%. The same study findings reported 30% of men admitting to being perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV). This context is further aggravated with Botswana reported as one of the most unequal countries in the world,2 characterised by unemployment, income, and wealth inequality.
This patriarchal, misogynistic and unequal country compromises the experiences of women and girls in their diversity who have to endure unjust and violent environments. This includes intimate partner violence, cyber bullying, hate speech, marital rape, child marriage in remote cultural settings, child abuse, unintended pregnancies, and discriminatory treatment. Local media reports reflect the prevalence of harmful gender norms, able-ist infrastructure, xenophobia, stigma and discrimination against diverse women and girls, further aggravated for those who are transgender, gender diverse or engaged in sex work.
16 Days provides an opportunity for all stakeholders (community, local, district and national) to re-commit to the urgency of GBV in Botswana. This includes improving and strengthening the evidence base for policy making and investments in public, reproductive and universal health. Furthermore, it demands for commitments in strengthening the country’s dualist legal system in measures for prevention, mitigation, and justice. This includes the Kgotla system and faith-based institutions that many of our communities rely on. Only holistic, community-centric and affirming solutions can have a meaningful impact in encouraging intergenerational healing and solidarity across communities.
According to Sisonke Botswana Organisation’s Director Tosh Beka and Success Capital Organisation’s Founder Dumiso Gatsha, there is a further need to address economic and development means of participation, to ensure that women and girls are not left behind in education, entrepreneurship, state service delivery and mental health provisions regardless of where they stay, where they are from, the work they are engaged in and how they identify. This calls for structural shifts in respecting and promoting human rights for all. This includes those in learning, work, or recreational environments. They further called on all stakeholders to adopt the principle and value of doing no harm when discussing and unpacking the social determinants of GBV.
As the 16 Days of activism have started, under the theme “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”, Gatsha and Beka posit the need to reaffirm humanity as Africans and Batswana in an increasingly challenging, complex, and uncertain world that erases and invalidates our diverse lived experiences. In addition, they called on all stakeholders to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue to eliminate all forms of violence among the people. This not only aligns with Botswana’s Vision 2036’s Human Development Pillar, but further calls for the need to revisit culture in discussing contemporary and misunderstood issues.