Ambassador Van Vranken’s Remarks at the Combating GBV in Women & Children Skills Development Training for Women Graduation Ceremony

Thursday, November 30, 2023

As prepared for delivery

Protocol:

  1. Her Worship the Mayor of Jwaneng Town Council – Hon. Olga Ditsie
  2. Acting Court President, Raphalane Customary Court – Kgosi Duncan Marumula
  3. His Worship Deputy Mayor – Hon. Koolopile Themba Pema
  4. Deputy District Commissioner – Mr. Odiseng Janie Moruti
  5. Town Clerk – Ms. Ogaufi Molelo
  6. Acting Tribal Administrator – Ms. Gadimang Tsalaile
  7. Hon Councilors
  8. BOHAIP CEO & IVLP Alumna – Ms. Lorato Mphusu
  9. Gender Committee Patron – Ms. Kedibonye Koosaletse
  10. Moruti Leepo
  11. Heads of Government Departments
  12. Ward Development Committee Chairpersons
  13. Teachers, students, and the Media
  14. Colleagues from the U.S. Embassy

Dumelang! Good morning.

Thank you for inviting me to the graduation ceremony for “Combating GBV in Women and Children Skills Development for Women Training.” It’s truly an incredible honor.

The U.S. Embassy in Botswana is fully committed to the important work you are doing to address the scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV). As you know, this is a global problem and one that affects the United States as well.

Here in Botswana, the U.S. government has partnered with the government of Botswana, civil society organizations, and alumni of U.S. government exchange programs in many ways: to support community outreach activities, education and awareness training, and addressing GBV as part of the U.S. government’s Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence. I assure you that this is a top priority for the U.S. Mission and myself, not just during the 16 Days of Activism, but all year round.

The numbers surrounding Gender Based Violence are sobering. According a 2018 government study done in Botswana, 37% of women and 21% of men have experienced some form of GBV in their lifetime, including Intimate Partner Violence. The World Population Review in 2023 cited Botswana as having the highest prevalence of rape in the world. According to the Department of Gender Affairs, 24,434 GBV cases were prosecuted in 2021; some were withdrawn by survivors or lacked evidence.

Gender Based Violence is a complex issue and one that is not always easy to talk about or address. However, it requires ongoing dialogue, and I’m thrilled you are committed to discussing the issue by being here today! Willingness to discuss this difficult subject openly and honestly is a solid step in the right direction. GBV is one of my top priority areas during my tenure in Botswana. I am engaging actively in this space and working with all agencies and sections within the U.S. Mission to Botswana to show our shared commitment to addressing GBV.

During the 16 Days of Activism, which takes place November 25 – December 10, a few of the activities that U.S. Mission to Botswana will be undertaking this year are:

  • Hosting a march in Gaborone to raise awareness;
  • Highlighting the work of local providers, as well as important anti-GBV work being done by U.S. government exchange alumni such as Mayor Ditsie;
  • Codifying Women, Peace, and Security collaboration with the Botswana Defense Force;
  • Speaking with adolescent boys in Mochudi in a conversation entitled “Coaching Boys into Men”;
  • Facilitating a discussion with traditional leaders (“dikgosi”) on gender norms and Botswana’s Domestic Violence Act;
  • Training health care providers on trauma informed care

One of our challenges is to identify and support interventions that address the causes of GBV. Too often, I think we neglect focusing on young men and boys. Mindset change, as His Excellency might say, is needed.

Your Worship, Mayor Olga Ditsie, thank you for being a community leader who advocates for behavior change, as behavior change is integral to stopping Gender-Based Violence. We are thrilled that you received direct support from the U.S. government to directly impact the lives of students, educators, dikgosi, councilors, and the larger community of Jwaneng.

For example, your school outreach activity trained twenty-five students and five teachers. In addition, through collaboration with the Men’s Sector, the project reached one hundred and twenty (120) men in October. I understand that the Men’s Sector is a strategic structure within some traditionally male dominated industries such as the military, police, and mining which have an appointed coordinator to lead outreach to men in health or GBV related outreach campaigns. The mayor’s GBV activity is also impacting one GBV survivor with healing therapy, and twelve women have been trained on business skills needed to run bakeries. This multi-faceted project has already had tremendous impact, and I congratulate you, Mayor Ditsie!

I’m pleased to report that the mayor was chosen to take part in the “Summit for Democracy IVLP Initiative: A Project for Mayors” International Visitor Leadership Program in 2022 because the U.S. Embassy recognized her important work and leadership. In addition, her project was selected from many proposals to receive an IVLP Impact Award and funding, as it aligned closely with our goals and objectives. We salute everyone who takes steps to positively impact their communities.

We all need to be concerned about GBV and do something to stop it.

Thank you all for being important champions against GBV, each and every day, 365 days of the year. Pula bagaetsho!