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‘Communication key to ending GBV’


Pascalinah Kabi

WITH her infectious smile and obvious air of confidence, ‘Matsietsi Tšephe hardly fits the profile of a victim of gender-based violence (GBV).

However, her bubbly personality belies years of pain and abuse at the hands of her husband of 33 years. In an interview with the Sunday Express last week, as part of commemorations marking 16 Days of Activism against GBV, Ms Tšephe said domestic violence, which includes emotional and verbal abuse, was prevalent in our society.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign is held from 25 November to 10 December every year and is a worldwide movement to oppose violence against women and children.

This year, the commemorations are being held under the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!”

Ms Tšephe (55) said the marital bliss that now characterizes her home almost cost a literal arm and a leg as she had to endure years of physical and psychological abuse. The Lesotho Meteorologist Services (LMS) officer said financial independence and educational background were no buffer to GBV since, “just like HIV/Aids, abuse knows no boundaries”.

“I went through all forms of abuse in my marriage, but today I am one of the happiest married women in the world,” Ms Tšephe said.

The Ha-Thamae-based mother of three said the beatings and psychological abuse became so unbearable that she couldn’t hide it from her sons.

“I remember one day when I couldn’t hold the pain in anymore and just broke down in tears in front of my children,” she said.

“My two oldest sons said to me, ‘don’t worry about us mummy, you can run for your life because we are old enough to take care of ourselves’.”

In addition to her children, Ms Tšephe said she also relied on her parents-in-law for emotional support.

“I remember one day when my husband refused to allow me to go and study for a Diploma in Meteorology in Nairobi, Kenya. I told my father-in-law about it and he helped me hide my luggage at his work place before my departure,” she said.

“After I had fled from the matrimonial home, my husband tried, on several occasions, to convince me to return. But, I vehemently refused until my mother-in-law approached me.

“We had long and difficult deliberations, but I returned to my home as per my mother-in-law’s advice and vowed never again to pack my clothes into my suitcase to run away.”

Although the declaration seemed void since the GBV continued unabated following her return, Ms Tšephe said she determined in her heart to fight for her marriage once more.

“I realised that my children loved both their father and me, and resolved to do my utmost to ensure that laughter and joy fill our home,” she said.

Impossible as it seemed, Ms Tšephe painstakingly convinced her husband to seek professional help to solve their marital problems. She, along with other ladies, also  co-founded She-Hive Association – a non-governmental organisation working against all forms of GBV.

She-Hive engages people who have experienced, or are still undergoing, abuse to speak out about it. The association disseminates information, educates people and campaigns for behavioural change in communities.

Ms Tšephe said the She-Hive counselling sessions made her ask herself difficult questions.

“I asked myself if I had not contributed in any way to the abuse meted out on me?” she said.

“While I owned up to my own mistakes, I made it very clear to him that I was not supposed to be beaten up, but talked to, firstly as a human being, woman, wife and mother.”

Ms Tšephe said she also reclaimed her freedom and dignity by helping her husband realise that they were partners.

“I firmly told him that I needed my children to be raised by both parents in a loving home, and that neither of us should use them as a weapon against the other,” she said.

“Our marriage is now rock solid and my husband has not only stopped abusing me, but we have both learnt to love and appreciate each other.”

Ms Tšephe said she is planning to sit down with her two married sons and their wives to help them understand the importance of appreciating their spouses.

“They should not compare their wives with me or anyone else, but should appreciate them for who they are. Only through such an approach can they build happy families,” she said matter-of-factly, adding that women must never be scared of their partners but create a communication strategy to prevent abusive relationships.

Meanwhile, Ms Tšephe is set to join hundreds of women today in Qeme, Maseru commemorating 16 Days of Activism against GBV in an event organised by the She-Hive Association.

Speaking to this paper ahead of the commemorations, She-Hive Association social worker, Ntšohlo Ranchobe, said the most challenging aspect of counselling abused women was that most of them came to the sessions with predetermined outcomes.

“In my experience as a social worker, the challenge I have most come across is of people who come seeking help yet already having their own expectations of the counselling sessions,” Ms Ranchobe said.

She said many GBV victims stopped attending their counselling sessions after they took a route they did not anticipate. Ms Ranchobe also noted that partners must be cognizant of each other’s rights and respect them to prevent GBV.

“There is need for a change in the attitudes because we come from a patriarchical society which dictates that everything starts and ends with a man. At She-Hive, we are working hard to change such attitudes through public awareness programmes,” she said.



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