Namibia: Women Ignore 'Baby Saver Box'

Since its establishment last year, not one woman has come forward to leave their unwanted newborn in the 'Baby Saver Box' at Swakopmund.

Ronell Peters, founder of the Swakopmund-based Ruach Elohim Baby Shelter, says she is disappointed that women support legalising abortion while ignoring alternatives such as the Baby Saver Box.

Peters opened her home at Swakopmund to unwanted babies last year after realising baby dumping was on the rise.

A box was built outside Peters' home where women or young girls can safely and anonymously leave their babies. Once the baby is in the box, it will lock automatically and cannot be opened from the outside.

A message is then sent to eight recipients, who will take the baby to be examined by a doctor and given medical treatment if necessary.

Peters is strongly opposed to the legalisation of abortion.

"If a mother is allowed to kill her own child, she is empowered to kill anybody who seems to be a burden on her. So you want to tell me you can kill your elderly parents because they are a burden? This is what we are motivating - no respect for life," she says.

She says she has always been proud of Namibia for not legalising abortion. Many people have been offering to take care of unwanted babies, but do not receive support from the authorities, Peters says.

"It's not about your body and choice as those advocating abortion say. I see the same groups wearing T-shirts saying Black Lives Matter. What about babies' lives?" she says.

Peters says a number of children on the system of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare have been accommodated by her until a solution is found. Some of these children are living with foster or biological parents.

She recieves more than 90 calls a month from desperate girls who she refers to social workers and who end up keeping their babies, she says.

Peters says babies also need responsible fathers who do not abandon them.

Social worker Sofia Negonga says women may have various reasons for not making use of Peters' baby box.

"They fear they will be seen. That is why a place like the bushes or a dustbin feels like getting rid of the evidence. It may be beneficial to put some baby boxes in toilets where nobody suspects you are leaving a baby," Negonga says.

Florence Tchisuku, from the Healing Wound organisation, counsels teenagers and says the country needs stronger marketing strategies to let women know such facilities are available.

"The Ruach Foundation, for example, is known by a few because it is visible on a wall, social media pages and the papers. The other problem could be attributed to poor mental health. Youth, especially in suh cases, become depressed and confused and think about an easy way to not be traced. Some have multiple partners and do not know who the father is. They know about culture and how they will not be able to explain it, so they have to cut ties not to be traced," she says.

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