As I approach the end of my time at WAR, I am contemplating the experience and especially my experience in the country of Botswana. I am meeting with individual staff and they come to fine out more of what I have to offer. Some are looking for professional ideas, but most are seeking to learn in the professional and the private arenas.
One came to me to talk about public speaking because of how I facilitated the team building the day before. That is all very flattering and I love it, of course. I had heard him leading the morning meeting and thought that he was very effective as a speaker. I was surprised that he asked. We talked for a while and it came out that he had not preached for a whole and that is his passion. He does not have a church now, has not spoken publicly for over three years and fears he is losing his edge. We explored what he might do and how he might get into the game again. As is so often the case, he just wanted to be reassured and to talk to someone who is not his office colleague and understands what he wants and is moved by. It’s interesting how people are essentially the same no matter what the culture. We all want to be loved, recognized and valued for who we really are and not some image that we might project as the “acceptable” version of ourselves.
Some interesting discussion around the need for an organization like WAR [WoMen Against Rape] in a country like Botswana where the people in public are gentle and essentially non-violent.
The culture essentially prohibits the display of public aggression and violence, but has no healthy way of dealing with emotions of anger and frustration. They have traditional councils at the family, neighbourhood, community and regional levels where people can be heard and solutions to issues sought. But in the fast pace of modernization some of that is not used as much as before.
Gender based violence and rape are problems to which the longevity of WAR attests[since 1992]. Along with the repression of emotions, there is the traditional marriage based on dowry or bride price. At least two of the women at WAR are engaged and waiting for their fiancés to accumulate enough wealth to pay the bride price. Traditionally that was in cows. Along with that comes the idea that the wife is a purchased possession, belonging to the husband – he paid for her after all. The anger and frustration is then taken out on the wife behind closed doors, usually for minor things. Hence the problem with gender based violence. It’s not that we don’t have that in our world, it’s based on different factors and has to be dealt with differently.
I amazed at how similar WAR is to my workplace, the BC Persons With AIDS Society. The mission of both is to empower and the modalities are support, advocacy and education both with their members and the community. The problems are even similar: funding, commitment, dealing with the right issues at the right time, reaching the community for education and awareness, dealing with stigma and discrimination and finding those in need.
In the long run, the solutions are similar. Education and ongoing education, not a short term project,is the only thing that can impact a culture to recognize all of its members as equal and equally worthy. Until that time we have to continue supporting, advocating and educating. May all our jobs be unnecessary soon!