Study high­lights drought and GBV link

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE El Nino-in­duced drought which dev­as­tated Lesotho dur­ing the 2015/16 agri­cul­tural re­sulted in crop fail­ure and acute food se­cu­rity as well as loss of live­stock among other chal­lenges.

Less ob­vi­ous, how­ever, was the drought’s un­der­ly­ing ef­fects on Lesotho’s so­ci­ety, with women, girls and other vul­ner­a­ble groups more sus­cep­ti­ble to gen­der-based vi­o­lence (GBV) dur­ing the pe­riod.

El Nino is a pe­ri­odic cli­matic phe­nom­e­non char­ac­terised by in­ad­e­quate rain in some parts of the world and floods in oth­ers.

Lesotho was one of the south­ern African coun­tries worst hit by the 2015/16 El Ni­noin­duced drought, leav­ing over 600 000 peo­ple food in­se­cure and liv­ing be­low poverty line.

As part of its multi-pronged re­sponse to the Lesotho gov­ern­ment’s plea for hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tions Fund (UNPFA) em­barked on a base­line study on the drought’s ef­fect on GBV and the avail­abil­ity of ser­vices to as­sist GBV vic­tims in the coun­try’s 10 dis­tricts.

The base­line study was car­ried out be­tween Novem­ber and De­cem­ber 2016, with the re­port un­veiled last Thurs­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the abuse of women and girls in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly dur­ing the drought pe­riod, with 53.8 per­cent of re­spon­dents stat­ing that GBV cases oc­curred dur­ing the pe­riod.

“Of all re­spon­dents in the 10 dis­tricts, Mokhot­long dis­trict had more re­spon­dents who per­ceived that GBV in­creased as a re­sult of El Nino while Quthing had more peo­ple who did not be­lieve that there was an in­crease due to El Nino,” the re­port notes.

Herd boys topped the list of GBV per­pe­tra­tors, al­though they were also vic­tims or sur­vivors of GBV.

“The herd boys were re­ported to rob, rape and phys­i­cally as­sault women and young girls to and from so­cial ser­vice points. Herd boys were also con­sid­ered to be sur­vivors in the sense that dur­ing the drought, they were forced to aban­don school to work for food. This was re­ported more in ru­ral than in ur­ban ar­eas.”

The com­mon forms of GBV ex­pe­ri­enced by women and girls dur­ing the drought in­clude: phys­i­cal (27.5 per­cent), sex­ual (22.8 per­cent), emo­tional (20.6 per­cent), so­cio-eco­nomic (22.9 per­cent) and harm­ful tra­di­tional prac­tices (seven per­cent).

Women, el­derly women and ado­les­cent girls con­sti­tuted the ma­jor­ity of vic­tims.

The re­port also states that the drought in­creased women and girls’ vul­ner­a­bil­ity to GBV as they strived to ful­fil their tra­di­tion­ally-as­cribed roles as care givers and providers of house­hold food and wa­ter.

Women, girls and — on rare oc­ca­sions men — were at great risk of en­coun­ter­ing vi­o­lence in house­holds, fields, on the way to and from ac­cess­ing so­cial ser­vices, pub­lic trans­port as well as em­ploy­ment in the case of ur­ban fac­tory work­ers.

“Ben­e­fi­cia­ries of food parcels and an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARVS) were re­ported to have been tar­geted on their way from the dis­tri­bu­tion points and clin­ics. The young boys and herd boys use the ARVS for mak­ing nyaope (a drug con­coc­tion),” it says.

“While men per­pet­u­ate GBV at house­hold level, with El Nino af­fect­ing house­hold liveli­hoods, a new trend of GBV per­pet­u­ated by women has emerged where men are de­nied food and con­ju­gal rights.”

On the avail­abil­ity, ac­cess and qual­ity of GBV re­sponse ser­vices, most re­spon­dents said health ser­vices, psy­cho-so­cial ser­vices, po­lice, and le­gal ser­vices were avail­able for pre­ven­tion and re­sponse to GBV.

In her re­marks at the launch of the re­port, UNFPA Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nuzhat Eh­san said her agency’s main fo­cus was on the drought’s ef­fect on GBV among women, ado­les­cent girls and other vul­ner­a­ble groups.

“Drought linked GBV has not been stud­ied be­fore and it was the first ever base­line sur­vey link­ing drought and GBV in Lesotho. UNFPA also en­gaged women and girls in dis­cus­sions on sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health un­der this ini­tia­tive and learnt that women and girls ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent forms of GBV but they rarely re­port it,” Ms Eh­san said, adding that 38 per­cent of re­spon­dents said that sur­vivors didn’t bother to re­port while 36.7 per­cent felt noth­ing would be done even if they re­ported.

Com­mend­ing the Min­istry of Gen­der and Youth, Sport and Re­cre­ation for its sup­port dur­ing the project, she said a num­ber of ac­tions needed to be taken at both pol­icy and com­mu­nity level.

“For ex­am­ple, there is an ur­gent need to im­ple­ment the re­fer­ral sys­tem for GBV with par­tic­i­pa­tion of all ac­tors in­clud­ing judiciary, health and law en­force­ment agen­cies, non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and so­cial work­ers,” Ms Eh­san said. “Sim­i­larly, there are still neg­a­tive so­cial norms and harm­ful tra­di­tional prac­tices that per­pet­u­ate gen­der in­equal­ity and pro­mote GBV.

“For ex­am­ple, some of the men we trained dur­ing the train­ings on male en­gage­ment for GBV pre­ven­tion said some songs that are sung dur­ing ini­ti­a­tions that are deroga­tory to women and pro­mote GBV. There is need for change.”

The min­istry’s Direc­tor, ‘ Matau FuthoLet­satsi, said Lesotho was mak­ing progress in GBV which was ev­i­denced by the chang­ing cul­tural norms and val­ues.

She said the min­istry was work­ing to­gether with the church to tackle GBV af­ter re­al­is­ing that the Chris­tian­ity was be­ing used to per­pet­u­ate vi­o­lence against women and girls, “yet the same holy book can be used to em­power women and girls”.

For her part, World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cor­nelia At­syor said the re­port was an im­por­tant tool that pol­icy mak­ers, de­vel­op­ment agen­cies and GBV pro­gram­mers could use for ad­vo­cacy, pol­icy de­vel­op­ment and com­pre­hen­sive GBV pro­gram­ming.

“Other than the base­line, we sup­ported and de­vel­oped Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dures (SOPS) and Re­fer­ral Path­way to strengthen co­or­di­na­tion and GBV ser­vice de­liv­ery. How­ever, there is still need for more ef­fort to ad­dress GBV in­clud­ing strength­en­ing laws and their en­force­ment,” she said, reaf­firm­ing that the United Na­tions’ com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing ef­forts that could lead to re­duc­tion of gen­der based vi­o­lence in Lesotho.

Gen­der and Youth, Sport and re­cre­ation min­istry’s direc­tor ‘Matau Futho-let­satsi.

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