WINDHOEK – Namibians should not blame the colonial war against apartheid for the ongoing gender-based violence (GBV), as there are other societal factors at work.
These factors include massive unemployment and men feeling disempowered especially when they cannot provide for their families, which bring a lot of stress, Dr Andrew Dawes, professor emeritus of the psychology department at the University of Cape Town, said is an interview with New Era on Friday.
Dawes, one of the key speakers at the three-day Gender Justice in Namibia Colloquium last week, a collaboration between the Namibian Government and UNICEF, said men are brought up to believe they are responsible for the family and when they have no chance to do that, it affects their sense of respect and dignity.
He said women are also brought up to believe that men are providers and when men fail, it becomes the biggest failure of all.
He said the post-apartheid era brought about a massive accumulation of wealth in a few hands, adding that to make matters worse, getting a job in the modern economy means skills are needed, which are often not on hand.
“Yes, the legacy of conflict in apartheid times, but I think it’s just a partial explanation. The immediate is deprivation and lack of opportunities,” he said.
Dawes said that pieces of our human history remain with us and pop out and we cannot simply ignore it but must acknowledge it and help people restore their dignity.
As an applied developmental and clinical psychologist, Dawes has extensive experience in child social policy research and focused for many years on the psychological impact of abuse, poverty and violence on the development of South African children.
He has been consulted by international agencies, national and provincial governments on policies and interventions to improve child protection
On the question of children and GBV, Dawes said it would be too much to expect children to speak out about violence in the home as universally children are taught to honour and respect parents and not talk to outsiders about things at home.
He suggested the community should work carefully with children to reduce exposure of GBV and to respect children.
“Respect is not a one-way street. When children are in difficulty, community and institutions should find a safe way to share what’s happening and not necessarily run to the police.”
He said there is less cohesion between people in urban settings and no community structures in place to support one another.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in poor townships, how do we join neighbours and women together to provide support to each other?” he asked.
Dawes said that blocks of shacks could create own neighbourhoods that are more sustainable support systems instead of campaigns or protests where there is little evidence that they work.
The retired professor added that in South Africa they have a child welfare programme called Isola labantwana (Eye on the child) which trains and pays elderly women to find out who lives in the area.
The women then visit residents of the neighbourhood to find out about the problems they endure and how they can help.
On the issue of men who are disempowered, Dawes said men come together to discuss challenges they face and find solutions and support for each other.
He said that a group called ‘Hearts of Men’ in Cape Town deals with the struggles of men.
Courtesy New Era