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Protecting the abused

Protecting the abused

The Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter (KSWS) is a humanitarian non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness about Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Botswana.

It is the first – and one of only two – shelters in the country built as a refuge for survivors of GBV and their children.

KSWS strives for gender equality and is committed to ending incidents of GBV in the country.

Voice reporter Portia Ngwako-Mlilo interviewed KSWS Chief Executive Officer Lorato Moalusi-Sakufiwa to discuss the organisation’s aims and their achievements to date.

Q. How was the organisation started?

A. In the 70s a movement of peace was started by a group of Christian women focusing more on protecting refugees, providing them with shelter and other services they required.

When countries gained independence most of the refugees returned to their home countries and we did consultations with different stakeholders for human rights.

There was no place to protect battered women and their children.

KSWS decided to provide a place of temporary protection and support for women escaping domestic violence and intimate partner violence of all forms.

We do not only assist women but also men who are experiencing violence get help.

Q. How have society responded to your organisation?

A. We still clash with some people thinking we encourage their wives not to respect their culture.

They think we deny a man his right to be head of the family yet the common law says women and men are equal.

However, our culture is also changing, as is the Motswana male’s mindset.

In 2004 our parliament passed a law of abolishment of marital act, removing the power of the man as the head so that both men and women can be equal.

Q. What kind of help do you give victims?

A. We provide temporary and emergency shelter for a period of three months to victims who are in danger.

Most people when they come here, they do not necessary need to end the relationship but want the abuse to stop.

We provide counselling for couples and, if it involves in-laws contributing to the problem we bring them on board.

We also provide legal services – though we do not have our own lawyer, law firms like Rahim Khan provide the service for our clients for free.

We also provide education support to children who experienced violence.

Q. When dealing with cases involving violence, which gender is the most affected?

A. It’s women who are mostly affected. We do have men but they are not as many as women.

Our statistics show that last year 1, 723 females were abused while 527 males experienced violence.

In 2010 UNDP conducted a study in Botswana and found that violence against women was predominantly carried out by men.

There was another study that linked GBV and HIV, which shows one in three women that were abused are HIV positive.

Q. What is the most common form of abuse?

A. Emotional – last year we registered 1, 542 cases, followed by physical, sexual and financial.

We registered 95 sexual cases, 205 economic and 408 physical giving us a total of 2, 250.

Q. According to your research, what are the main causes of violence?

A. Research shows women experience violence 35 times before they can pack up and leave their abusers!

We need people to be trained and understand the psychology of violence because victims tend to be attached to the abuser.

They report and withdraw cases not knowing that they open themselves to more abuse. Most of the victims depend on the perpetrator.

We need to teach service providers and communities to unpick all these things.

Some grew up in families where one parent was abusing another.

Witnessing and experiencing violence as a child, you grow up thinking it is a ‘cool’ thing to do it.

Q. What are some of the challenges you face?

A. There is denial – people do not want to believe violence exist.

People think we are an organisation that causes trouble for families.

People are not reporting cases of violence, protecting the perpetrators because they are afraid they will be arrested.

Like any other civil society organisation we have financial challenges.

There is a lack of support, especially from the business community.

We have noticed an emerging issue of young girls without parents who are experiencing violence and we accommodate them yet we have limited resources.

Every day in Botswana there is a case of violence, high cases of murder, women being killed by men and men killing other men.

Q. Is there any improvement in terms of the number of cases your organisation register?

A. The numbers are increasing – but what we do not yet know is if it’s because people now understand their rights or whether violence is increasing.

We have a lot of people reporting and we think it’s because of awareness but we need to do research on that.

Women are abused at home, work and on the streets.

There was a case of a nurse who was raped at work and this week a schoolgirl was gang raped at Mogoditshane.

Q. How do you carry out your GBV awareness campaigns?

A. We have a team committed to community outreach and education going to different work places and schools to create awareness.

We are building community movements in Molepolole, Thamaga, Kasane, Sebina and Phikwe.

We have dialogue with the village leaders and see what might be contributing to GBV and needs to be changed.

We then form community gender committees.

We also work with the media and had a television drama ‘Pelokgale’ based on our book of stories of courage.

The book has 14 stories of women we assisted sharing their experience of GBV in their homes.

It is not consistent because of limited resources.

Q. How do you reach out to the workplace?

A. We get invitations from companies when they have wellness days and we share our services with their employees.

During international commemorations like Women’s Day, Day of the African Child and 16 days of Activation against Women Abuse, we have presentations at the workplace.

During morning prayers at government offices we ask for the slot.

Q. What are some of your achievements?

A. Running an NGO is a big challenge but there are so many achievements we have made.

We have acquired our own property office and shelter and have cut rent costs.

In terms of technology, victims can send the word ‘help’ to 16510 with any network provider and we respond by calling.

If they are in Gaborone we invite them to our office and if they are outside Gaborone we link them with other service providers, the police and social workers in their areas.

We have also documented people’s experiences in book and videos.

We are working with Ministry of Youth and they provide interns, we empower them with skills and they provide the services – we have already absorbed four of them!

Q. What does your job entail as CEO?

A. To run the organisation, designing programmes and ensuring that they are being implemented as per our agreement with our donors.

I do connect our organisation with other stakeholders and ensure that we keep our relationships.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. My late mother, Goitsemodimo Moalusi.

She raised me well as a girl child and I am what I am today because of her.

She always encouraged me to aim higher despite the challenges I faced as I grew up.

She was a hard worker and believed in herself!

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. I will be at International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) World Conference moderating a section and helping with the registration.

I will be also attending my younger sister’s Kgalalelo Moeng’s surprise birthday party.

(Laughing) I hope she does not read this interview or I will ruin the surprise!