U.S. Embassy Botswana Joins Forces with Partners to Address Gender-Based Violence

Ambassador Van Vranken visits the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention & Support Centre (BGBVC), a partner of the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. Ambassador Howard Van Vranken

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) starts with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and culminates with Human Rights Day on December 10.  These two markers symbolize what we know to be true: achieving gender equality is not possible without addressing gender-based violence, a human rights abuse that holds back women and girls from fully and safely participating in social, economic, and political life.  Ultimately, gender-based violence harms all of us, regardless of who experiences it, and prevents our communities from reaching their full potential.

What does it mean for us to put anti-violence values into practice each day, in all aspects of our lives? What does it look like for the government, civil society, business, and every part of society to say that enough is enough – that we will no longer tolerate gender-based violence?  These are questions we should all be asking ourselves in our homes, our communities, and our countries.  Gender-based violence is a global dilemma that reaches across all levels of society in every region of the world.   The United States is committed to addressing this vast and complex problem that limits the ability of survivors of gender-based violence to fully enjoy their rights.  We recognize the critical linkages between gender equality—including prevention and response to gender-based violence—and democracy, national security, economic security, climate change, global public health, and human rights.  This is why, over the last two years, the United States has prioritized development and implementation of the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality and updated the U.S. Strategy to Prevent & Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally and the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security.

Botswana, like many countries around the world, including the United States, has seen rising numbers of gender-based violence.  In 2008, the Government of Botswana passed the Domestic Violence Act, with the aim of protecting gender-based violence survivors.  The Act empowers courts, including customary courts, to pass restraining, interim, and tenancy orders, which protect survivors from further abuse.  Despite the availability of these legislative protections, some survivors remain vulnerable to their abusers.  In the most extreme cases this has led to the loss of life.  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.  Of those interviewed, 69% of women and 43% of men were aware of the laws that protect women and children against abuse, while only 5% of women and 45% of men had heard about the Domestic Violence Act.  GBV survivors in Botswana have various platforms and service points where they can report incidents of gender-based violence, including the police, social workers, health care providers, and community leaders.

In commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the U.S. Embassy in Botswana embarked on the following activities this year. They’re part of our larger strategy to support gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence, year-round.

  • We supported U.S. government alumni to carry out training for faith-based leaders to effectively engage their communities against gender-based violence; and training for women and children to develop self-help skills and income-generating activities.
  • We conducted a Coaching Boys into Men session with adolescent boys to discuss GBV and gender norms to reinforce positive masculinity. This directly engaged boys in HIV and violence prevention efforts.
  • We facilitated a training for 15 community leaders (dikgosi) to discuss gender-based violence prevention strategies and the Botswana Domestic Violence Act.
  • We collaborated with a local media partner to produce an animated social media campaign to tell locally inspired stories on gender-based violence: https://bw.usembassy.gov/my-fathers-hand-animation-series-episode-1/
  • We will train 45 health care providers on trauma informed care to ensure timely and client centered services to survivors of GBV in health care facilities.
  • We will hold round table discussions on human rights and legal support for survivors of gender-based violence.
  • With the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) we held a Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) working group in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to explore ideas for increasing women’s meaningful participation in the security sector. DoD and BDF ultimately signed a five-year WPS campaign that includes activities to counter GBV.
  • We held a Leadership for Women in Law Enforcement training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Otse, which incorporated a discussion panel on gender-based issues faced by girls in school. The panel was comprised of women leaders and high school girls.
  • We held a GBV session for U.S. Embassy staff to increase their awareness of what services are available to GBV survivors in Botswana.
  • We showcased our GBV commitment on our weekly Stars and Stripes radio show on Gabz FM.

This issue involves every one of us.  Thus, it’s crucial that in our collective efforts we understand the full gender-based violence continuum – where, when, and how it occurs – and take necessary steps to ensure access to life-saving services for all survivors. Prevention of gender-based violence also requires that we promote justice and accountability for these acts and establish an enabling environment for all survivors of gender-based violence to thrive.  Let us act urgently to scale up what we know works to prevent gender-based violence: to promote gender equality; strengthen laws and end impunity; use survivor-centered, trauma-informed, evidence-based approaches to our policy and programmatic work locally and globally; and to keep survivors front and center in everything we do.  On behalf of U.S. Mission Botswana, we are humbled to partner with the Government of Botswana, diplomats, NGOs, and local communities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, every day, year-round. Please join us now.

If you or someone you know is a survivor of gender-based violence, please reach out to the Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre at +267-390-7659 or 7495-6887.