Namibia: Country Needs Gender Transformative Programme

21 November 2019

Windhoek — The director of Regain Trust, James Itana, says if Namibia is to effectively address gender-based violence (GBV) then both men and boys have to become a key target audience just as much as women and girls are a target.

Itana further says Namibia needs a gender transformative programme designed to address harmful gender norms and toxic masculinities among men and boys at community level.

Itana and other men's comments come after the weekend incident where Namibian Qualifications Authority CEO Frans Gertze allegedly shot and seriously wounded his wife, Anittha, at the couple's Pionierspark home in Windhoek. Namibia has also experienced countless other cases of GBV.

And GBV continues unabated despite efforts by government and other instances in society to end it.

"At the societal level, we would need to run campaigns that promote positive masculinity by using traditional and social media as avenues to scale up the message," he said.

Itana said that currently there are very few GBV prevention programmes targeted towards men and boys. He said the very few programmes that exist are not sustained or scaled up.

Organisations that offer psychosocial support such as counselling need to avail their services for men and boys and tackle the stereotype view that counselling and services are only meant for women, Itana suggested.

GBV activist Zachary Itodo told New Era that gender violence victims don't speak out, and when they see red flags they take it lightly and don't report matters. However, he said, when the victims do report there is family interference and the situation of family members pleading with the victim not to go ahead with the case.

Itodo urged victims to speak out once they see signs. "Family members should not decide your right to live or not. When you die, you are gone. Never take threats to your life as a joke," said Itodo, adding that the country has not failed addressing GBV but it is rather a case of victims refusing to speak out.

"Pride and arrogance is a problem. You think you will be laughed at [once you speak out] but nobody is laughing. (Itodo can be contacted on 0853963963 or 0814913541).

Executive director for Women's Action for Development (WAD) Salatiel Shinedima said the pertinent question is whether "we are reaching the correct target audience [with GBV campaigns] since there is an assumption that a certain sector of our society is not affected by this?"

In addition, Shinedima said, society has reached a point where it sees violence but does nothing about it. He reminded that things would change when society takes stronger steps against GBV.

He said people don't always have to report to the police but also to institutions that can respond to the matter or case.

"Without support from people who live within the community, we might not win the fight. The perpetrators of violence continue because we allow them to, not because government is allowing them or civil society, but neighbours," Shinedima said.

Relationship consultant Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi told New Era that GBV remains what it is because "we don't confront men and don't do much to help them change their mindset".

Karuaihe-Upi asked where is the emotional and mental training for men on a consistent basis to help them internalise messages on proper behaviour.

"When we say violence is not the answer [do we tell them] what is the right answer? If you say I should not kill her, what should I do? if [you say] I should walk away, how do I walk away?" said Karuaihe-Upi, adding that the problem is that such conversations are in English and not held in local languages.

He said there is the Olufuko annual cultural festival which supposedly prepares girls for womanhood, adding: "But we don't have anything to prepare men for manhood, we don't prepare them to understand they have right to life and opportunities like women."

Chief executive officer of School of Destiny Associate (SODA) Sidney Boois, who works in partnership with AFM church, said from their side men in fellowship together with SODA consultancy do engagement sessions on a monthly basis where men talk to men on principles of the Bible, and the sessions are meant to bring new consciousness, new thinking for men to think about life differently as being a husband, father or just male.

"How do you think differently (after) hearing the voice of other men talking on the same issues, on behaviour of men, responsibilities of men and the initiatives men can take and aspects of power - how men can use this positively for the benefit of society and everyone around them."

He called on other men to consider joining them at their monthly engagement sessions.

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