February 15, 2009 Leave a comment
Abuse is pervasive in Botswana. It creeps into almost every corner of society and haunts the psyches of many. Most don’t even realize what it does to the potential progress of this country or how it affects every individual. Subconsciously, it affects the lives of almost every Motswana.
Kids are taught that abuse and violence are ok early on in life. Students are hit by teachers with sticks if they’re late, if they give a wrong answer, or if they simply cross someone the wrong way. If an entire class fails a test, it’s not the teacher’s fault. It’s the kids’, and they all get lashes. The schools don’t seem to be interested in thinking of a better way to “control” and discipline kids. Instead, they hit them, and it squanders any hope for most kids to be creative, try new things, take risks or fulfill their dreams.
At home, with parents who may have grown up in a similar system, or whose own parents beat them, they don’t know any other way, so many, not all, but many parents hit their kids. Domestic Violence is so widespread that many wives and girlfriends think their man doesn’t love them if he doesn’t hit them. Girls and women are hit with belts and sticks, sometimes tied up and burned and sometimes murdered. Often the women and children are blamed for the abuse, as if they deserved it. Therefore, in most of these cases, even with murder, no charges are pressed, and the police don’t get involved.
Camp GLOW 2008 is one of those rare opportunities, although only a week, which allows adolescents to escape that world and live in a different place. This year, I participated at a camp that brought together 27 boys and 26 girls from villages all over the country to learn about a wide variety of topics through educational activities, including HIV/AIDS, what it means to be a leader, human rights, planning for their futures, gender equality and gender-based violence (GBV). The kids also participated in a lot of fun activities throughout the week, most notably the Mock Protest around the issue of condoms in schools, a theatre competition and a fierce dance off.
While at GLOW, there’s no hitting, beating, yelling or scolding. These future leaders get to learn in a supportive environment, have fun, and receive positive reinforcement for all of their good behaviors from participating in sessions to helping out others. With the incredible help of 35 facilitators who I got to train, learn from and work with, this year’s Camp was a huge success. After the Camp, these kids went back to their villages where they will form local GLOW Chapters in their schools to teach and organizer their peers around HIV/AIDS and GBV. The light that GLOW brings to the lives of these kids was evident in light in their eyes.
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