Only mindset change will end gender violence

Kapamba Philani, 26, has always believed that women are equal to men. Back home in Gulubane, that makes him a rare breed. “Most of my friends back home consider women an object of pleasure,” he says.

“Many guys think they cannot marry an educated woman because it wouldl be like having two men in the house. It scares them. They just want someone they can control.” When launching the ‘strengthening women’s rights through engaging men as warriors in protecting women and girls as well as ending Gender Based Violence in Botswana’ campaign recently, Executive Director of Men for Health & Gender Justice Org, Thatayotlhe Molefe said changing male-oriented mindsets like those of Philani’s friends is key to protecting women’s rights.

According to Molefe, the root causes of gender violence can be narrowed down to the violent harmful and controlling aspects of masculinities which are the results of patriarchal power imbalances. The 2012 Botswana Gender-based Violence Indicators Study showed that over two-thirds of women in Botswana have experienced some form of gender based violence, with 44 percent of men having admitted to perpetrating violence against women.

“One of my goals is to have a society that is free from fathers who do not help in any household chores or do not participate in child rearing,” Molefe said in an interview. “Women cannot keep working and advancing in their careers unless men help their working wives.

We need to protect women’s rights as well as empower them”. However, he said, the lack of continued support from key stakeholders has been the biggest stumbling block in effecting the change his organisation sets out to achieve since inception in 2012,  “The whole society including the business community and our leaders needs a mindset change to prioritise these issues,” said Molefe.

Adding,” it’s time to move from small-scale programming by hard-working NGOs to large-scale efforts across our societies, in our schools and workplaces, transforming our families, and creating the future that women, our children and, indeed, men truly deserve”.

The campaign will be implemented in Gaborone, Selibe Phikwe and Maun.