Ambassador Van Vranken’s Remarks at the Event for Equipping Faith-Based Organizations to Effectively Address the Root Causes of OF GBV in Botsw

November 15, 2023

As drafted for delivery

Protocol:

  • The Jwaneng Town Council Mayor Her Worship Ms. Ditsie, who is also IVLP Impact Awardee
  • Gaborone District Commissioner: Ms. Setlhotlhe, (TBC)
  • Acting Director for Department of Gender: Mr. Richard Mpolokeng
  • Botswana Police Gender Coordinator Ms. Ngono
  • The ILVP Impact Awardee Mrs. Mphusu, who is also the CEO of Botswana Christian Health and AIDS Intervention Program (BOCHAIP)
  • All Faith Leaders participating in this program

All protocols noted.

Dumelang! Good morning.

Thank you for inviting me to the first of three training sessions entitled “Equipping Faith-Based Organizations to Effectively Address the Root Causes of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Botswana.” I am honored for this opportunity to address both the organizers of the program and all the faith leaders present at today’s training.

The U.S. Embassy in Botswana is fully committed to the important work you are doing to address the scourge of Gender Based Violence. 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 and civil society organizations in various ways: to deliver support of community outreach activities, education and awareness training, and action to address 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 not just during the 16 Days of Activism, but year-round.

The numbers surrounding Gender Based Violence are disturbing. According to the 2018 Botswana National Relationship Study conducted by the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, 37% of women and 21% of men have experienced some form of GBV in their lifetime, including Intimate Partner Violence. The World Population Review survey showed Botswana had the highest prevalence of rape in the world in 2022.

Gender-Based Violence is a complex issue and one that is not always easy to talk about or address. However, the Government of Botswana – and you, by being here today – are willing to talk about this issue. This willingness to discuss this difficult subject openly and honestly is a solid step in the right direction.

GBV is one of my priority areas during my term in Botswana. I am engaging actively in this space and working with all the agencies and sections within the U.S. Embassy to show our shared commitment to addressing GBV. Our challenge is to identify and support interventions that address the causes. Too often, I think we neglect focusing on perpetrators – namely the young men and boys who commit these outrages. Mindset change, as His Excellency might say, is needed. NOW.

Lorato, 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 your organization, the Botswana Christian Health and AIDS Intervention Program, has received direct support from the U.S. government, and is recognized as a Prime Partner of USAID. You were chosen to take part in the “NGO Management” International Visitor Leadership Program in 2022 because the U.S. Embassy recognized your important work. And, as witnessed today, your project was selected from many proposals to receive an IVLP Impact Award and funding, as it aligned so closely with our Embassy’s goals and objectives.

Lastly, let me say that the training you are doing today is vital. The power of faith leaders to inform and influence those in their faith communities is immeasurable. You all have a strong impact on your communities, and it is through community that changes can happen. The more we work together, the more we can make a difference.

Thank you all.