Kaone Mmereki* was in her late twenties when she met her husband at a music festival. He had all the makings of an ideal 21st century man to fall for: kind, intelligent, wealthy and caring. She fell in love with him quickly and felt he was the one for her when she saw how much he loved her two daughters from a previous relationship. In an interview with The Midweek Sun, Mmereki stated how she overlooked some red flags before their wedding seven years ago. “He abused alcohol and took offense when I complained.
He told me it was his money and not mine, yet when I asked for money to do my hair, he would drag,” she said. Nonetheless, she went ahead and married him. She would later fall pregnant, and had twins, and this is when her husband now became openly abusive. “He called me fat, complained about my stretch-marks and said he was no longer feeling me sexually. He said I had got too big down there,” she said, adding that he also started sleeping outside home. During their marriage, he regularly abused her. And here is the kicker: She did not know he was doing it.
Because no hitting was involved, she simply did not have a name for the behaviour that made her feel diseased in his presence: the subtle put-downs, the physical avoidance and the mocking. Experts do, though. They call it emotional abuse, and it is as widespread in romantic relationships as it is misunderstood. In the simplest terms, emotional abuse is behaviour and language designed to degrade or humiliate someone by attacking their self-value or personality. While a normal couple may disagree about how to spend money, for example, an emotional abuser will make his partner feel as though she is too stupid to understand the intricacies of finances. It can range from verbal abuse — yelling, blaming, shaming, and name-calling — to isolation, intimidation, and threats. It also commonly shows up as stonewalling and dismissing, behaviours that make victims feel alone and unimportant.
University of Botswana graduate Matildah Montsho says the emotional abuser gets a feeling of achievement. “It’s either he is insecure or downright weak. Men who generally abuse women, especially women, have something to hide. Sometimes they had it tough growing up without someone to look up to and therefore lacked guidance,” she says, adding that a man who swears at a woman is a weak man. From Women’s Shelter Women are emotionally abused in their relationships, according to Kagisano Women’s Shelter director Lorato Moalosi.
The highest numbers of women they accommodate are those that have been made to feel worthless by their partners, married or single. These, she says, include, being an absent partner or father, use of harsh words, being threatened to be dumped or divorced or even killed. “Being told you are nothing, or when he doesn’t take care of you and/or the children, being called a useless bitch are just examples of what our clients go through,” she says. However, Moalosi does not dispute the fact that men also get abused but she says women experience it a lot more, and even daily. A 2010 situational analysis on Gender Based Violence in Botswana shows that more than half of women are forced to have sex without protection. Half of the women in the country have experienced GBV and are more likely to be infected with HIV.
Twenty-three percent of pregnant women experience violence during pregnancy. Experts say that its effects can be devastating: depression, anxiety, and destroyed self-esteem. “It’s very erosive,” says Marti Loring, Ph.D., author of Emotional Abuse. “Whether it’s overt or covert, the abuse negates a woman’s very being.” Kenanao Mmusi, 30, had a boyfriend who would accuse her of being promiscuous for having dated one man he knew. He would even discredit her ex-boyfriend and call him ‘useless.’ “When any family members or friends called her, he said they were stealing time from him, even though they were living together”. Psychology graduate Montsho says that women should always look out for warning signs that include blaming, a sense of entitlement, jealousy and a feeling of dominance. *Kaone Mmereki is not the interviewee’s real name
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BR train 0501/BD 540 would not have derailed on 10 December 2019 had necessary precautions been taken, Botswana Railways (BR) staff members told the ongoing commission of inquiry in Mahalapye.
They blame the fatal accident in which two BR employees were killed on a raft of lapses, indecisions and negligence on the part of BR management. BR Senior Traffic Controller Simon Matenje revealed that there is a WhatsApp group that discusses everything concerning the running of BR trains. He said meteorological services had posted a memo warning that there would be floods on 4th December and shared it on the WhatsApp group. “The contents of the memo and their implications were discussed,” said Matenje who revealed that the group comprises most of the senior personnel in the BR hierarchy.
He lamented that although read and discussed the contents of the memo were “not given due attention.” Above that, on 9th and 10th December many BR staff members using the south bound and north bound trains warned relevant authorities about the possibility of floods, said Matenje. He believes there was negligence of duty on the part of management because everybody was aware of the floods at Moreomabele and Palla Road. “The relevant office should have directed stoppage of the trains or the adoption of an appropriate speed limit. “The best that management did was to give warnings about the floods but fell short of prescribing a solution,” he said. Matenje, who was on leave, said that he communicated his concerns about the reports of flooding and possible solutions to no avail.
When asked who exactly had the authority to do that, Matenje explained that it was the Operation’s Manager. Matenje also decried the lapses in the organisation’s system. He said motor trollies are helpful when inspecting the railway line. “However, they have not featured for a long time,” said Matenje who feels that regular inspection of the rail is a very critical part of safety. He said BR has not held any safety workshops in a long time. Mompoloki Rutherford, a train driver also appearing before the commission conceded that trollies had not been used on the BR lines for a long time. He said some senior managers use the train to inspect the line instead of trollies. “There are only two seats in the cabin but, contrary to safety rules, sometimes they just join us in the cabin which is a breach of the safety rules,” said Rutherford. Dikabelo Nawa, a retired train driver noted that BR workers were a sad lot because of pressure always exerted on them by management.
“Drivers work under pressure. The line between Mafikeng and Plumtree is old and very bad but we were always pushed by management to arrive on time. “There is just too much pressure. I once lost time and that put me into a big problem.” He said. He is also unhappy with the undergrowth and hanging branches next to the line because they obstruct the view of the crew. He appealed to the panel to recommend the introduction of a training centre for BR staff.
Peter Mokokwe, a recently retired train driver also complained that the rail road is never inspected. In addition to that, he told the commission that, he witnessed water around Palla Road on 9th December at the same place where the derailment later took place. Mokokwe, who himself did not alert control room about the water because he had heard through radio communication that his colleagues had reported the situation to control room, is also of the view that the disaster could have been averted had the 501 crew been alerted of the water situation.
On the other hand, a train controller named Moses Sethomo says he never got the communique warning the drivers about the impending floods. “There was a clear breakdown of communication,” said Sethomo who revealed that very often, even BR assets are wrongly used. “For example, sometimes freight locomotives instead of passenger train locomotives are used to haul the passenger train and this is a safety concern,” he noted. The hearings are continuing this week. The rail services that were suspended have since been resumed.
Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments
Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.
Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.
He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.
“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.
“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.
“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.
Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”
She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.
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