Namibia: First Lady Gets to the Bottom of Gender-Based Violence

19 November 2020

FIRST lady Monica Geingos says it is not women's responsibility alone to educate boys and men on issues around gender-based violence (GBV) and women.

She shared this sentiment at a GBV sponsorship event hosted by Medscheme in partnership with the One Economy Foundation last week, where she launched the 'Problematic Mindsets Report'.

The report addresses key themes around GBV as well as demographic details about male offenders incarcerated for violent crimes in Namibia.

"When I am asked why I focus on girls and women, the truth is we work with everybody, because every perspective is important, but statistically girls and women are at the receiving end," she said.

When men ask her why she does not focus more on boys, she tells them the following, "Why don't you? Do you expect women to do everything? What stops you from starting a boys' club?"

Geingos said Namibia will not achieve less GBV if general violence in society remains high.

She said men do not have safe spaces to talk about their feelings and thus do not know how to address them.

Mothers, she said, sometimes contribute to the problematic mindset of boys, thereby perpetuating patriarchal mindsets.

She said men are statistically more likely to inflict fatal violence on other men, concluding that "patriarchy kills men more than it kills women".

According to the report, most sentenced offenders in Namibia have committed assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, followed by rape offenders and then murder.

The report noted that violent offences in Namibia may stem from the high incidence of community violence causing this violence to be normalised.

Veronica Theron, technical adviser to the first lady, said: "The violence rate in Namibia is generally high, and because we have violent men committing crimes against men, it's the same violent men who will commit crimes against women."

"More men are killed by men when you look at the stats, but we only focus on violence against women," she said.

Speaking to The Namibian, James Itana, project director at Regain Trust and MenEngage Namibia, and country coordinator at LifeLine ChildLine, says: "We believe we need to be able to acknowledge and address the vulnerability of men and boys. What we need to address is the system of patriarchy . it is unfortunate that this system is being upheld by both men and women in our society."

Itana says men should hold each other accountable when it comes to GBV.

He says it is important for parents to raise men to understand women's issues and concepts such as patriarchy, equality and feminism.

"It basically requires everyone to get on board," he says.

Itana says it is important to understand perpetrators' past traumas and experiences to know why they use violence as a means of resolving conflict.

"So, we need people to sort of go back to the drawing board and realise there is a lot of work. Are we living in a society that is raising them to become the way they are?" he asks.

The 'Problematic Mindsets Report' corroborates this sentiment as it identifies factors such as poverty, a lack of housing, and unemployment as contributing factors to violence in Namibia.

Geingos at the event said dysfunctional homes and relationships also drive GBV.

"If you think of GBV as a pyramid, the murder of women is one of the smallest statistics, the big statistics are at the bottom - the emotional and financial abuse," she said.

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