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In the Air

Beesa Boo, the voice of human rights in Tsumkwe. For more photos of Human Rights in Tsumkwe visit our Flickr site.

Radio is a key tool in promoting human rights to the San people of Tsumkwe.

"Today, we're talking about domestic violence..." the crackling radio announces.

As students in Tsumkwe, an isolated region in north-eastern Namibia, begin lessons in geography, arithmetic and penmanship, the community's adults undergo an education of their own.

At 8:30 a.m., the voice of human rights broadcasts into the homes of Tsumkwe and its surrounding villages. In studio is Beesa Boo, an LAC-contracted Ju/’hoansi interpreter, who regularly provides much-needed information on Namibian laws, the Constitution and human rights through the radio-program /Our Rights Today/.

"The people don't really know what the law is doing," Bessa Boo says.

Every month, the half-hour show tackles another topic. For some, it's their first exposure to the rights and laws that protect them under the Namibian Constitution, the Child Maintenance Act and the Rape Act.

To the Ju/'hoansi speaking people, it's also making learning easy. With an adult literacy rate of 16 per cent1, radio helps empower and educate by listening instead of reading.

"People need the information," emphasises Beesa Boo, a former school teacher.

Known as Namibia's most marginalised community, the nearly 3,5002 San living in Tsumkwe and surrounding villages, are learning about the laws that surround issues currently facing the community.

As an ethnic group who have historically been the brunt of discrimination, today's San live in extreme poverty. With an average income of N$3,263 a year3 (or about $450 US dollars a year), the San face a high unemployment rate that, in many cases, has resulted in people becoming dependent on government hand outs, such as maize meal, and pensions. The unemployment rate has been accompanied with alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

A lack of information regarding government policies, the services they are entitled to, the rights they have continues to be a problem in Tsumkwe,” says Trine Strøm Larsen, the Project Co-ordinator San Education Project with the Namibia Association of Norway (NAMAS).

Larsen, who lives and works in Tsumkwe, adds that a lack of id documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates, along with land issues and discrimination, continue to be problematic in the area.

In response, the LAC has partnered with NAMAS, to administer the San Human Rights Programme. Designed to provide legal information and assistance to the San communities in the area, the LAC is raising awareness of existing and new laws.

Already, a change in attitude is evident.

"Education is the way of changing lives, of improving lives,” says Fransina Hishekwa Ghauz, an LAC-trained community paralegal who lives in the area. “It breaks the cycle of poverty and vulnerability."

Ghauz, a mother of 10, says through the education in the area, more women are beginning to stand up for themselves.

"Before, women were not accessing their maintenance claims," says Ghauz, an LAC-trained community paralegal. "Now, some San men are paying maintenance which never happened before."

With radio reception in 30 of the villages in the Tsumkwe region, the radio program is hoping to create more of a culture of legal awareness and human rights.

I think its very excellent work. People are talking about it," says Beesa Boo before returning to the microphone to deliver his next script.

Next time we will be talking about rape.”

View more photos of the LAC's work in Tsumkwe by visiting our Flickr site.
To support causes like the San Human Rights Programme click here.
Or email the legal educator dealing with this matter.

Read about other people the LAC is assisting.

1 - Suzman, James. An Assessment of the Status of the San in Namibia. Windhoek: Legal Assistance Centre. 2001
2 - Land, Environment and Development (LEAD) Project. Our Land They Took. Windhoek: Legal Assistance Centre. 2006
3 - Minority Rights Group International. State of the World's Minorities, 2008. London, UK. 2008

Uploaded: May 20, 2008