19 May 2017

Namibia: #BeFree Launched by First Lady - a UNAIDS Advocate

Photo: #BeFree
#BeFree Anonymous

The #BeFree Movement was launched in November 2016 at a Windhoek nightclub with the assistance of UNFPA and UNAIDS. #BeFree was inspired by the UNAIDS drive to ensure a AIDS-free generation by 2020 through the START FREE, STAY FREE, AIDS FREE initiative.

While HIV remains a focal point, the intention of #BeFree is to create a non-judgemental, inclusive platform which encourages honest and robust dialogue and information sharing on matters which stand in the way of young people being free of the issues that hold them back. We also act as a bridge builder between those with trauma and those responsible for frontline trauma services.

We intend to launch #BeFree in all fourteen regions of Namibia by the end of 2017 and host similar events across the Continent with our first such event held in Harare, Zimbabwe in May 2017.

The response from the youth, parents, teachers and service providers has been overwhelming and the trust placed in us by many of the people we engage has been humbling. We have directly intervened in several unreported or unresolved cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, custody battles, baby dumping, teen pregnancy, cyber bullying, harassment and threats/intimidation.

The success of the #BeFree Movement is our partnerships with various stakeholders who assist with psycho-social support, therapeutic intervention, legal advice and representation, medical intervention and law enforcement. Each case has been significant and as individuals, what we have seen and heard has affected us and the way we view policy interventions around social issues.

We have decided to remove all #BeFree events from the Facebook page of the Office of the First Lady in order to ensure it is a platform which is less diplomacy driven and more in tune with the needs of the youth.

While we accept that there may be postings which will, at first glance, appear to be profane or "too much", the idea is to give young people the agency to address their issues in the best way they know how.

To this extent, we are collaborating with a young woman who will run the account. She will operate under the pseudonym "Anonymous" as she is not ready to reveal her identity. She is however ready to share her story about being recently diagnosed with HIV at the age of 18. Her story, and many of the stories we are hearing and assisting with on a daily basis, is why we authorised the creation of the #BeFree movement where we want to help ease the burden of troubles which many people are carrying on their own and not trusting the "system" enough to help them resolve their problems.

Please follow this page and share the individual story of "Anonymous" by following her on twitter https://twitter.com/BeFreeAnonymous while also keeping track of the # BeFreeMovement . If there is any issue that triggers past pain or relates to traumatic events you are currently experiencing, please feel free to contact us as we promise confidentiality and we always try our best to find the best solutions to resolve the issues brought to us. The essence of the #BeFree Movement is to help those we interact with to be free from anything that limits their potential.

#BeFree has taught us that it is important to include youth in discussions which affect them, but most importantly, we have to trust the solutions they propose. We will assist with content and guide key talking points but in relation to the personal story of Anonymous and any posts outside of the direct activities of #BeFree, we leave that entirely up to the discretion of the youth who will manage this page.

To "Anonymous", please know that we trust you. You must please take this page and make it your own. Post as you deem necessary, respond as you feel appropriate. If there are any concerns or complaints, please feel free to contact us on FLON.admin@op.gov.na or call +264612707806.

All our love,
FLON and the team at the Office of the First Lady


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