Use Valentine’s to fight GBV – FLON

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Toivo Ndjebela

Windhoek-While social media is abuzz with jokes that some lovers would go in hiding today, or fake their deaths until Valentine’s Day – often characterised by exchange of expensive gifts – is over, First Lady Monica Geingos believes the day should also be used to drive home a strong message against gender-based violence (GBV).

While literature is littered with men who supposedly died for love – from the biblical Samson to Romeo as narrated by William Shakespeare – today women are the leading victims of what is supposed to be love relationships – with GBV the leading cause.

Geingos, celebrating two years of marriage to President Hage Geingob today, says apart from the traditional formalities of celebrating Valentine’s, the day should provide a window of reflection on issues such as lack of love, fatherlessness, mental health, poor parenting and unstable homes.

Geingos, a leading businesswoman of her generation, also apportioned GBV incidents to low self-esteem as well as alcohol and drug abuse, which she said have negative outcomes in relationships.

Also, she believes patriarchy – a system based on the governance or dominance by men – has its share of the blame in GBV incidences.

“If I had to attribute [GBV], it appears to be boiling down to patriarchal views about women as well as high levels of generational trauma and social dysfunction,” she observed.

“It appears we have internalised violence and lack communication and conflict resolution skills which lead to misunderstandings and conflict, which appear small but escalating into something more serious.”

GBV cases are high in Namibia, with one out of three women having experienced it on average, according to official information.

It is further estimated that one out of five Namibian women are in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence and rape, predominantly against women, constitute the lion’s share of GBV cases in the country.

“I feel the ‘Spot it to Stop it’ campaign by the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare on what love means was a perfect example of how to engage this issue,” Geingos said.

“I would really like to see Namibians embrace the work being done by government around encouraging Namibians to make positive lifestyle choices. The ministry of health has also rolled out a Valentine’s Day campaign called ‘Safe Love for Healthy Relationships’ and I really do believe those type of campaigns are necessary to force us to re-examine some of our belief systems while also accessing the right information.”

“We also need to do a lot of work on helping people to deal with psychological trauma and how to deal with negative emotions in a constructive manner. There are many other things that can be done but I would like to retain the focus of love of God, self and others as the basic building block.”

GBV is one of the five pillars of activities under the Office of the First Lady. “Ending poverty requires addressing the power inequalities between women and men, girls and boys that underpin gender-based violence. The Office of the First Lady has an advocacy role and will support government efforts in addressing all forms of gender-based violence.”

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