Botswana: Catch Changes Lives in Taung

Taung — In the dead of the night, a croaky tune would break the night silence.

The voice would infiltrate the walls to the ears of those turning and twisting in their beds.

Its owner would not care. She had accepted the fate of being the unofficial, useless time keeper for Taung villagers.

To her family, she is a true likeness of dreams shattered, a mother eluded by the motherhood task and only good at bringing shame to the family.

"I could not even take care of my own children," Ms Keineetse Rabafi said, with her face suddenly dipping to hide the regret.

A mother of two, with the youngest being only six years old, Ms Rabafi's life was a tale of a drunkard who would arrive home late in the night from a drinking spree and leave early the next morning, to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for alcohol.

"I wanted to leave that lifestyle but I did not know how. I could feel I was in bondage," said Ms Rabafi.

About three years ago, her life took a complete turn when she attended an awareness program, which among other things discussed the ills of alcohol consumption.

The campaign, was part of the Communities Acting Together to Control HIV (CATCH) initiative.

CATCH is a model adopted by government in 2015, following recommendations made at the 2012 National HIV Prevention Pitso held in Francistown, which called for communities to initiate strategies to help in the fight against HIV.

The model is funded through National Aids and Health Promotion Agency, formerly known as the National Aids Coordination Agency (NACA) and is facilitated by Humana People to People Botswana.

Under the model, the community through its tribal leadership identify its concerns and aspirations.

In Taung village, the community identified excessive alcohol abuse, drugs and alcohol in schools, poor students performance, defaulting on medication due to alcohol abuse, illegal shebeens and selling of outlawed alcohol as some of the thorny issues.

The village wanted to see the identified ills shunned by all.

Consequently, the community facilitators were engaged to engage the residents through forums such as workshops and household visits.

Hence people like Ms Rabafi were reached and she is slowly picking pieces.

"We visit Shebeens and talk to both the owners and customers. We ask shebeen owners not to sell alcohol to those already intoxicated," stated Ms Lesenyo Magasola, a CATCH facilitator in Taung. Customers also receive education on various issuers such as the danger of alcohol and how it interferes with medication for those on treatment, as well its contribution to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

CATCH facilitators also spread message on the need for illegal shebeens to close down and advise those operating legally to observe the stipulated hours of operation and reduce noise from their outlets.

"If people can sleep on time and there is no noise from liquor outlets, the community will be able to hear intruders during the night," another Facilitator Ms Tefo Pikashe said.

Apart from the reaching out to the community, the facilitators have also reached out to schools in the village to spread the message on alcohol free schools and importance of education.

Another intervention has been sensitising youth on out of school opportunities and economic empowerment schemes.

"This program has brought us closer to the community. We even have people who testify about its impact," Kgosi Reuben Masie of Taung said.

Kgosi Masie says the impact is something that bring delight and hope to the community.

However, his main worry is that the community's energy in steaming CATCH is fading slowly as they get used to the program.

Another uneasiness is that the community had aspirations which depend entirely on the implementing partners such as government, which can ultimately demoralise those spearheading the initiative.

However, Kgosi Masie takes comfort in fact that CATCH, together with other programs has managed to throttle increasing alcohol addiction and abuse, crime, youth delinquency and other social ills.

Since its introduction in Taung, CATCH has reached out to over 4129 people and 2333 households.

Source: BOPA

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