Lorato Moalusi Sakufiwa is well known for her role in the fight against domestic violence and does not shy away to say her mind when it comes to issues concerning women’s welfare.
It is this passion that led to the birth of Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter, a haven for abused women and children.
There have been misconceptions about the shelter and in this interview with The Voice journalist ONNEILE SETLALEKGOSI, Sakufiwa dispels the notion that the shelter fuels divorce.
The seasoned social worker says infact the shelter and the work they do has saved more marriages which could have instead collapsed.
Q. How did the Women’s Shelter come into being?
Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter is a non-profit making organisation and a sister entity to Kagisano Society which is a humanitarian organization started in the 70’s to respond to the influx of refugees to Botswana who were from the region.
After many countries, including Zimbabwe and South Africa got Independence and stabilized many refugees returned home.
After that we asked ourselves; what next. We then realized that there were many organizations dealing with Human Rights issues but non which provided protection for abused women.
We then set up the shelter and in June 1998 we admitted our first clients.
Q. What exactly is the main role of Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter?
Our aim is to end domestic violence especially violence against women.
Q. Why domestic violence and not other ills in society?
Domestic violence is a serious social problem and a national health concern with significant negative impacts on individuals and communities.
Research has showed us that at least two thirds of women living with HIV/Aids have experienced abuse in their lives.
Q. What models do you use to end domestic violence?
The idea is to curb violence at family level so we provide counseling for couples, children and the extended family.
Q. How do you sensitize people about domestic violence?
We often target communities, we reach out to youth groups and people living with disability to teach them about Gender based violence.
We go around schools and teach students about GVB through PACT groups.
It is scientifically known that GVB and HIV are a cause and a consequence of the other, so we work with groups of people living with HIV.
Q. What inspired you to be a social worker?
My interest in Social work developed way back in 1985 when I was serving Tirelo Sechaba (TS).
I am a family oriented person and I just love seeing people happy. But above all I have always had a passion on women’s issues and their welfare.
Q. But I am sure there is something that actually made you decide to pursue social work?
Oh! There is actually. While I was working for many different organizations in TS, I came across a very sad case.
A child had been neglected by parents and left with a family that abused and forced her into child labour.
That influenced my decision and immediately after TS I applied for Social work course.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
The fact that we offer protection for women. Women should live well.
Q. People often think women’s shelter destroys homes. Do you only help married people?
Not all people who seek help from us leave their marriages, but our clients usually consider us as the last resort.
And usually they come to us already fed up about their abusive partners.
Majority of our clients are married people but we also assist cohabiting couples.
Actually the idea behind engaging us is to save marriages.
Q. How does the shelter work with other human rights organizations?
We sometimes consult with legal services. We also work with the legal aid unit at the attorney general.
Q. You said you offer shelter to abused women, tell us more…
We provide emergency and temporary shelter to women and children. But there is a criterion used when admitting women.
We get women sent by the police, or rights NGO’s. Some are even referred by families who were previously assisted.
Q. But the shelter looks small, how many do you ever admit?
A while back we had about 1 500 clients, but we now only admit 65 people who are in imminent danger and have nowhere to turn to.
Q. And how many centres do you have?
We have a sister organization in Maun called ‘Women against rape’ but we only have one shelter in Gaborone.
In terms of community education providing post gender based care, we are in other 11 areas such as Ghanzi, Serowe, Sebina, Molepolole and others.
Q. What does 16 days of activism mean to your organization?
It is one brilliant international awareness-raising campaign aimed at the illumination of violence against women.
We normally urge women and girls to wear orange in order to address violence.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself, are you married?
I was married and it never worked out. It collapsed. I have always had passion to see women living well including myself.
Gosh I do not know why I got married…‘Ga se bonno ke boetelo.’
Q. Any children?
Yes, I am a mother of two.
Q. And what car are you driving?
(Laughs) Do you really have to ask, I drive Toyota Fortuner.
Q. Feel good it’s a Friday, what’s up for the weekend?
I will be home with my lovely children.