ADDRESSING GBV THROUGH COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
Gender-based violence is prevalent in Namibia. It is estimated that one third of women have experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. Furthermore, every year, more than 1100 cases of rape/attempted rape are reported to the Namibian Police, with one third of these cases occurring in children under the age of 18. ‘Hidden’ issues such as witchcraft are also prevalent in Namibia, although information on these issues is often difficult to obtain.
In 2008, GR&AP was awarded a Social Development Fund Grant from the French Embassy which enabled the department to intensify its grassroots education initiatives on gender-based violence. The causes of gender-related violence are deeply embedded into Namibian culture and change can only happen from within. Therefore the goal of the project was to empower communities to self-action. GR&AP implemented a programme comprised of five components: (1) focus group discussions conducted in urban and rural areas in all 13 regions; (2) a follow-up magazine entitled Addressing gender-based violence through community empowerment, published in English, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero and Afrikaans; (3) a training manual on key gender laws, published in the same four languages, designed to assist community activists to conduct their own training; (4) a script for radio shows on key issues raised in focus group discussions; and (5) factsheets and pamphlets on domestic violence, rape, maintenance and equality in marriage, also published in four languages. The intention was that through these combined methods, dialogue about gender-based violence would be stimulated, and implementation and change would occur.
The conception of this project was based on a short series of pilot workshops on Causes of Violence conducted in Karasburg, Windhoek, Ondangwa and Katima Mulilo in early 2008. The pilot workshops provided a number of success stories related to community empowerment. For example, following the Windhoek workshop, some of the attendees sent SMS messages on a Friday (when text messages are free) about gender-based violence. The participants from the Tanidare Empowerment Centre in Katutura run a Saturday morning group for children and following on the workshop discussion, GR&AP provided a blueprint for training session on corporal punishment which they could use with the children.
The participants from Karasburg decided to form a voluntary organisation named People against Violence, Karasburg. GR&AP kept in contact with this group throughout the year and made two further site visits. The second visit was to provide the group with information on how to become a voluntary organisation. To accompany this training session, GR&AP produced a 12-page Guide on how to create a non-profit group accompanied by a sample constitution.
The subsequent series of community empowerment workshops held in all 13 regions allowed GR&AP to make contact with a range of diverse community groups. For example, rural San women attended the workshop conducted at Corridor 13 (Omaheke region), whilst the participants at Usakos were from the !Khe!homs Community Leaders Committee, a group of elderly community members. We were able to work with community members from off the beaten track, such as the participants from Bernafey who are part of an agricultural project and the participants from Otjivero where the Basic Income Grant is being piloted. Our outreach across Namibia was extensive, ranging from Warmbad, a small settlement in the south of the country to Opuwo in the north east and Tsumkwe in the west of Namibia.
In 2010 GR&AP started a new workshop initiative involving continuous visits to 4 isolated rural communities in an effort to provide them with sustainable and ongoing assistance. We hope to expand this effort to more communities in 2011.