New Era (Windhoek)

4 July 2014

Namibia: Shame On Us, Indeed

column

As I am writing this column, I am sitting in the second national conference on gender-based violence (GBV). It's quite an eye-opener in terms of the information being provided by panellists in their various capacities. We now know that alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty, vulnerability, culture and traditions are some of the major contributors to GBV. So many things have been proposed to decrease the number of women dying at the hands of their lovers, but is seems that even stiffer sentences have not been able to deter murderers from committing such heinous acts.

But our President just made one remark that should have every caring Namibian thinking. He was indiscriminate when he said we should be ashamed of ourselves. And I can't agree more with what he said. If we are honest with ourselves let's do some introspection, because the courts, police, the President, church, civil society or even sangomas cannot improve the situation if we don't do it ourselves.

While we are holding this conference at a nxa hotel somewhere on the outskirts of Windhoek, things are happening in the heart of the Tura and many other lokasies in Namibia where some people have no idea such a conference is taking place or they couldn't care less.

I can guarantee you now that someone witnessed some mampara beating up his girlfriend or wife last night after coming home gesyp, but eish, no one reported the incident to the police, social workers or at least notified the woman's family because after all, "eish, it's none of my business."

We should be ashamed to watch women and girls being beaten in broad daylight and crossing the other side of the road. Even if we are not strong enough, isn't it our duty to at least tell others of such fateful incidences so that action can be taken? What happened to brothers, fathers and male cousins who were protective of their sisters and mothers? This is indeed our shame. We blame the victim for being at the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time. Are we then insinuating that the perpetrator was at the "right" place at the "right" time? Does that mean that the constitution guarantees some more rights than others or are we saying that we have accepted that "freedom of movement" is not a guarantee to all? We also blame the victim for having "allowed" herself to go through such abuse not knowing that there are many circumstantial reasons that might have made her stay in that relationship for that long. How many of us have opened our doors to the abused person without saying, "Aaiye, it's not our story." Or you hear someone skindering, "That woman doesn't listen. She deserved to be moerd." Even our traditions blame the woman for being abused because she doesn't listen to her husband.

But the day the woman is killed, we are the first ones to raise our placards in the air and toyi-toyi to the courts demanding that the culprit be castrated or hanged from the nearest tree.

It's a shame that 24 years after independence, many Namibians are afraid to go see a psychologist or psychiatrist because we think they will confirm we are crazy or that we must be locked up in the malkamp. Mothers, we are the first people in a child's education. I challenge mothers to stop belittling their sons for crying, saying they are weak and acting like little sissies. This is some of the upbringing that lead to the psyche that girls are worthless and hence the behaviour they portray when they grow up. Let's take this shame from us. Let's take the message to the grassroots because after we finish this conference, I hope we will not only put it in a book and wait for the next conference. Let's dramatise incidences of violence and use language that our people will understand.

We should indeed be ashamed of the society we have become.

Sorry Ngo!

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