NANSO warns against GBV risk during lockdown

By Maria Hamutenya

WHILE the directive to stay home may have come as a relief to many, for others it is the beginning of a domestic nightmare. Now more than ever, many women and children are at risk of being abused within their own homes.

THE Namibia National Students Organisation (NANSO) has, however, taken measures to help women and children against Gender Based Violence (GBV) by establishing a helpline for everyone to report cases against GBV during the lockdown period.

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The nationwide lockdown which is set to come into effect this week is considered necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, but puts women and children at risk of GBV, experts say. Concerns are now being raised about the safety of women and children during the country’s 21-day national lockdown.

The lockdown was recently announced by President Hage Geingob. Khomas and Erongo regions implemented a 21-day period as from Saturday and people are only allowed to leave their homes to stock up on food and medical supplies. The nationwide lockdown is expected to be announced soon.

NANSO president Simon Taapopi said Namibians welcomed the lockdown but what it also does is force women and children to be in the same space with possible abusers. “We should not shy away from these scenarios, it is often uncles, guardians and neighbours who commit these acts, and we want to create awareness of this issue.”

As more people will be expected to stay home, there is room for abuse. Abuse does not have to be physical or sexual but includes financial, verbal and emotional abuse, particularly in a context where most of the population live in poverty stricken environments.

“What we are calling for is for women and children to be prioritised and protected during this lockdown and for GBV cases not be to disregarded. Even during this lockdown, they must be attended to with the sense of urgency they deserve,” Taapopi said.

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NANSO urged government to factor in women’s experiences and perspectives in pandemic planning and decision-making. The health sector is also urged to be prepared to provide essential support to victims of gender-based violence.

“When we receive a call, we will immediately connect the victim to relevant authorities, namely social workers and the GBV unit at the police. We are being proactive to ensure that women and children have a safe space to turn to and that tangible action is taken,” Taapopi explained.