Gender Violence Persists

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK In the absence of support for women, and limited skills among women lobby groups, there is a general feeling that violence is accelerating. Negative attitudes of men towards their women folk and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, say women, have increased the burden of violence, which has not only claimed some lives but has also left some women blind. Participants at regional workshops for women organised by Women Solidarity Namibia last year said some women were deliberately infected with the virus by their partners due to the fact that they have multiple sexual partners. They also reported that women were murdered for minor things such as missed calls on their mobile phones, coming home late from church choir practice and also for attending evening classes. Women Solidarity Namibia (WSN) called the workshops for women to deliberate on the type of violence existing in society, to find out about the activities, if any, that create awareness about violence amongst women as well as their needs to be able to combat violence. A report from the regional workshops, which were held in nine regions, was presented at a National Consultative Conference for non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and activists on violence against women and children recently. The report also notes that violence has also extended to robbery and theft judging by the number of women that have been killed for pension money. “Violence has expanded into robbery and theft, particularly regarding pensions of the elderly on paydays, from their accounts, from their homes, to the extent that the aged are murdered for a paltry N$300,” says the report. The report singles out economic abuse as the most powerful weapon of violence to keep women under control and to keep them dependent on their partners. The report also touches on the issue of commercial sex workers who also face violent attacks, which they cannot report because of fear of intimidation. The women, however, also reported that there is little basic support when women experience violence due to lack of organised activities to respond in times of crisis, lack of skills for women’s groups to organize effective programmes and a general lack of awareness and understanding of violence. The consultative conference was called to bring the organisations together in order to build strategies through which to advocate and lobby for non-violent and peaceful programmes. It also aimed at creating information sharing channels such as the media to improve the fight against violence. Marianne WÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ller, of the German Development Service (DED), said standing up against violence against women and children would have a positive effect on HIV/AIDS within the country. “My sincere belief is that when the Government together with the civil society is managing to prevent and reduce the violence against women and children, which goes hand in hand with the government of women and to give men and their women counterparts equal rights and respect, that this will have an immense influence on the prevention and reduction of HIV/AIDS at the same time,” she said. WÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ller called for the establishment of a national umbrella organisation to enable civil society organisations to contribute to reduce violence and help victims because each organisation working on its own could not wield much power to change the situation. A national umbrella organisation, added WÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ller, would deliver new information to its members, improve networking, lobbying and advocacy activities and compile the impact of civil society within the country. DED in conjunction with Bread for the World has donated N$128 000 for WSN to carry out capacity building and networking, advocacy, lobbying and develop a national concept process of civil society organisations within the country.

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