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Beaten, battered, raped

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After four years of a sustained campaign of psychological, emotional and physical abuse by her ex-husband that was designed, she believes, to make her feel worthless, Jane* left her home with only a blanket and her most prized possession – her daughter. The 35-year-old lecturer at the Gaborone Technical College gave a heart-wrenching testimony of how she survived an abusive marriage against the odds at the St Augustine Theological School recently. She shared how at 19 years old, she was forced to get married after she fell pregnant, after all she had embarrassed her family, herself and the church by falling pregnant out of wedlock. Even before getting married, signs of abuse in the relationship were there according to Jane.

She recalled how, the night before their nuptials, her husband-to-be was nowhere to be found. When he finally resurfaced in the wee hours of the morning, he pushed, shoved, harassed and ruined Jane’s hair as she carried their one year old daughter. “He kept saying how he will ruin my beauty and beat the degree out of me since it’s the one making me crazy,” she narrated. That night, she said, she called her parents wanting to cancel the wedding but all she got was a lecture of how that would embarrass the family. “My mother and uncles said I needed to go ahead with the wedding, whatever issues I had will be addressed after the wedding.” The abuse went on however, day and night, as Jane, a student at the time, balanced school and taking care of their child and home. She was deeply exhausted, depleted and worn. But even worse, was living in a perpetual state of walking on eggshells. “He would go out drinking, come home to harass and beat me then demand sex. If I refused, he would become enraged. It was easier to give in than argue.

Those nights I felt that I was almost being raped,” she said. “Every month I was treated for a sexually transmitted disease.” The night before Jane finally left her husband and the house they lived in for good, he had gone drinking as usual and brought home a woman. She found them frolicking on her bed and without a hint of remorse, he shouted at her and told her how useless and ugly she was. Her daughter saw and heard it all. That’s when she decided enough was enough. She shares her story, not for pity, but believes it’s important to have a conversation about how support structures that are often meant to build a person and the family often fail when it comes to dealing with domestic abuse. Jane, who feels let down and misled by society said, “I’m not a victim but a victor, a warrior. I don’t need you to feel sad for me.

I need you to help me make noise and disrupt the cycle, become a catalyst for change. “We have created an environment where abuse is tolerated and covered up, even here in the church.” Social worker from the Botswana Counseling Association, Keletso Tshekiso also acknowledged that when speaking of domestic violence, and the cultural factors that foment it, one crucial element missing from the discussion has been religion. She said in the years of working with victims of domestic violence, she found it was “extremely common” that women would be “encouraged by the church” to stay in an abusive relationship. “Women in faith communities where divorce is shunned, and deemed shameful, often feel trapped in abusive marriages,” she said. “How do we hope to achieve peace in the world when there is no peace in the home?” she asked the congregants? Tshekiso said it was important to recognise that where there is abuse, the whole family including children, need to be counseled instead of just the couple only.

This is because children who grow up in an abusive environment grow up with the idea that “this is a proper way to interact.” “We have to get almost indignant about violence in the family and not justify it in any way,” she said. *Jane is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the victim

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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