Poor Turnout at Sunday’s Remembrance March

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Co-organizers of the Remembrance march for survivors of gender-based violence have expressed concern over the poor attendance on Sunday afternoon of the event which marked the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. Most non-governmental and community-based organization representatives dealing with women’s issues as well as officials from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, under which women and children resort, were absent. The few people who turned up were from Namibia Women’s Organization (NAWA), Women Solidarity, Women’s Lobby, Namibia Society of Human Rights (NSHR), The Rainbow Project (TRP) and Katutura Community Radio. The only government institution to participate in the march, which started in Khomasdaal and ended at the Old Cinema Hall in Katutura, was the Ombudsman’s Office, which was part of the National Preparatory Committee on gender violence. This, according to Women Solidarity’s director, Rosa Namises, casts doubt on how serious Namibia is taking violence against women and children. Yet, the Namibian Supplement to the State of The World’s Children Report 2007 says gender-based violence is Namibia’s new struggle because women and children across the county are under siege in their homes, at schools, hostels, on the streets and at the workplace. Namises told New Era yesterday that it looked like partners in the fight against gender-based violence would remain at the talking table without moving to the ground to carry out activities that would put an end to the scourge. “We are seriously concerned, and we think this is a matter for discussion because it creates tensions. In 2007, we need to re-evaluate the role which all of us play and see how far and where we need to separate actions,” she added. Since the start of the days of activism which were launched on November 24, Namises said, all the partners knew this would end in a march to remember the survivors and victims of gender-based violence. “We had the same programme,” she said. Namises acknowledged that there was lack of solidarity among organizations, which begs for introspection to see how activists can better participate and network with others to achieve results. The few people who turned up marched from Khomasdaal to Katutura at the Old Cinema Hall where four families were awarded Certificates of Remembrance from the National Preparatory Committee on Gender Violence. The certificates were meant to show solidarity with the families who lost or had their loved ones affected by violence, and also to encourage families going through violence that support is available. The group, which marched whilst singing songs in remembrance of victims of violence and shouting slogans such as “You have no excuse for abuse”, “Give us peace now” among many others, made several stops where men or women were murdered and raped and also at places where alcohol and drug abuse, rape, robberies, fighting and stabbings are rife. These places included Khomasdal where a woman was murdered; riverbeds where a woman was raped and pedestrians are robbed; shops where the youth and others indulge in alcohol and drugs; where rapes occur; the home of the late Juanita Mabula’s family; an inn and shebeen where drug and alcohol abuse are the order of the day. The last stop was at the Old Cinema Hall, where little Sophia Hoesemas was raped and killed in February 2005. Ombudsman John Walters, who handed over the remembrance certificates to the families of the survivors and victims, said it was sad to hear of the number of brutal attacks perpetrated against women and children, adding: “I hope next year will bring an end to such acts because men must respect the rights of mothers and their kids.” The three families awarded the certificates were the Hoesemas and Mabula families whose daughters died violent deaths; Elizabeth Mendos, whose granddaughter awaits to see justice done on a neighbour who raped her; also Anna Shipanga, a woman who lived in an abusive relationship for 22 years but has since divorced her husband.