GBV budgeting blunders

09 November 2018 | Economics

While Namibians continue to pray about, protest against and suffer gender-based violence (GBV), government has dismally failed to budget money to curb the scourge.

The latest performance audit report on how the gender ministry is dealing with gender-violence has revealed that no budget was earmarked for anti-GBV activities during the 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 financial years.

The report also found that strategic and annual plans for the ministry and all stakeholders are silent on GBV activities, and that these activities are also not sufficiently planned for, and therefore only a few activities were conducted for the financial years under review.

Apart from this, a dire shortage of social workers has also been recorded, which results in victims not receiving counselling, which prevents their recovery, and hampers their ability to live normal lives after their abuse.



Cases not reported or withdrawn

The report also highlighted the worrying trend of case withdrawals, the lack of child witnesses to testify in court and the reluctance of victims to report cases.





Statistics suggest there was an increase of cases being withdrawn in the //Karas region during the three financial years, because the families of victims are financially dependent on perpetrators

“According to comments received from the ministry of justice, the office of the prosecutor-general faces a challenge as far as withdrawals of GBV cases are concerned. Even if the specialist prosecutors are availed for this purpose, the withdrawal of cases remains a great concern and the root causes need to be addressed.”

Another major concern was the poor conditions of the shelters and safety houses for GBV victims across the country.

The National Gender Policy (2010-2020) says the number of shelters and places of safety are to be increased.

It also says the ministry should ensure that adequate support services are provided, such as medical, psychological, as well as free counselling and legal support for women and children who have been subjected to violence, in order to enable them to recover and live normal lives.



86% of safe houses not fully functional

“The audit found there were safe houses in four of the five regions visited by the auditors. However, 86% of the safe houses were not fully functional and were not used for their intended purpose, as they did not provide the required support services.”

The report also found that the safe houses were not fully functional due to a lack of staff members and that there was no budget for shelters.

“Interviews in the //Karas Region showed that traumatised victims were taken to the hospital, where they do not get preference and have to queue up because no doctor is assigned to the GBV unit,” the report said.

It added there was a lack of food supplies for victim's accommodated at the safe houses, while these facilities in the //Karas and Omusati regions were termite infested and in a dilapidated condition.

The report also highlighted the ministry's failure to make prompt payments for electricity for Kunene safe houses and that it also failed to furnish some shelters.

At the time of the audit, the ministry appointed a technical committee on 17 January 2017 to operationalise shelters for survivors of GBV and trafficked people.

This committee was scheduled to meet twice a month and later every second month, on an ad hoc basis.

However, these meetings did not occur as scheduled.

“The consequences of not having operational shelters are sending back victims to an abusive environment and keeping physically healthy children in hospitals as a temporary shelter,” the report said.



Ban on staff restructuring

Deputy gender minister Lucia Witbooi acknowledge the shortage of social workers, but added they were directed by the prime minister's office not to review the ministry's staff structure in the past five years.

“The five years are now over and it is now part of our current strategy plan. The ministry has done a capacity gap analysis that we will submit to the prime minister for consideration. Of course we are addressing it and we have the support of our PM,” she said yesterday.

According to Witbooi, there are standard operational procedures for shelters and safe houses in the country, which were be piloted in some regions, but because of a lack of funding the pilot projects will only be implemented next month.

“Next year we will roll out the standard procedures to other regions. The biggest challenge we have with the shelters is the staff to make our shelters operational. And that will be part of the submission we will make to the PM,” Witbooi added.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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