On the subject of violence, Nelson Mandela said, “no country, no city, no community is immune. But neither are we powerless against it.”
Violence continues to plague Namibia. With nearly daily reports of murders and assaults, each more gruesome than the other, it almost feels like we are living in a horror movie. The country has certainly become a “perpetrators paradise” as it has been declared by some.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is a cause for concern worldwide. Continentally, it has even been considered a major obstacle to human security, peace and development in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. SGBV is a pandemic that continues to undermine national efforts towards a prosperous Namibia. It has a detrimental social and economic impact and thus needs to be confronted with a sense of urgency.
It has been claimed that the increase in reports of violence is an indication of growing awareness. This claim, though seemingly good, offers little consolation, as reports are made after the violence has occurred. This indicated the need for preventative resolve.
According to the SADC gender policy, the regional approach of addressing GBV ought to go beyond looking at the act of violence itself and consider developing evidence-based strategies that encompass education, prevention, and victim assistance. These strategies are included in Namibia’s National Plan of Action on GBV, there is, however, a need for a shift from theoretical aspirations to practical application towards ending violence.
Practically ending SGBV requires collaborative efforts between the government and grassroots organisations. An example of how this was done is from the United States of America when between 1993 and 2010, there was a 64% reduction in the rates of intimate partner violence. This reduction stemmed from the passing of the Violence Against Women Act that was pushed by anti-violence grassroots organisations. The Act was informed by the work that these organisations and it provided the fiscal allocation towards amplifying the work.
One of these organisations was Futures Without Violence (FWV). An organisation that created programmes focusing on prevention, economic empowerment of survivors, male engagements and support for children exposed to violence. With the passing of the Act, this organisation was able to amplify what was already practical and effective and thus reach a wider audience with practical solutions.
There are numerous organisations in Namibia that have been working tirelessly towards ending violence. They have done the research and have the results of their application, but their reach and impact remain quite limited. This is an avenue for more expansive collaborative support.
An important aspect of the work of grassroots organisations do, is the collection of data that can inform interventions. Such as that of understanding the perceptions and contextualisation of violence in different parts of the country. While condemning the atrocious actions of violence, there should be room for engagement. Violence is not inevitable, it is learned, hence it can be unlearned and this makes it preventable. All the avenues and tools to educate and spark conversation need to be employed.
The employment of the media is thus a powerful tool for ending violence. By utilising different media to engage, teach and inform, the national dialogue can be sparked.