|Why the violence? Why the silence?|
In October last year Hilda Amon, a long-term member of Mothers for All, was brutally murdered with a spade by her ex-boyfriend who had been harassing and threatening her for many months. In Botswana, as in many other countries, the frequency with which women and children are exploited, beaten, raped and murdered should shock us all into action. But Hilda's gruesome death barely received a mention in the local paper and we have to start asking why. Hilda became the face of our organisation when her picture, adorned with the paper bead jewellery she became so skilled at making, was chosen for the front cover of our leaflet. More importantly she personified the aims of the organisation by seizing every opportunity that was offered to increase her skills and help herself and other mothers achieve a better life for themselves and the orphaned children in their care.
At the time of Hilda's death she had just been promoted to the position of regional co-ordinator, responsible for all our groups in the Okavango Delta and Kalahari region. She was very excited by this promotion and the opportunities it offered her to develop her leadership skills as well as participate in training workshops throughout Botswana and South Africa.
All of us were deeply shocked by Hilda’s brutal and unexpected death and saddened that she had been too frightened to speak out and ask for help for fear of putting any of her friends at risk. But our mothers also understood her silence as many of them had been victims of domestic violence themselves and had nowhere to turn to for effective help or protection. We have therefore decided to make sure that Hilda’s death will not be in vain and so are launching two products made out of recycled paper beads as the start of a campaign to reduce violence against women and children.
The products (see below) have been chosen to reflect two aspects of this message. The first is that we must ‘all pull together’ if we are to succeed and so we have designed a beaded tassel which can be attached to the zip openers of handbags. The second aspect is to ‘unlock the silence’ that is preventing us from acknowledging the high levels of domestic violence in our society and so we have designed a key ring.
Mothers for All is also determined to help address many of the root causes of this pervasive gender-based violence. We are therefore planning to launch a parallel movement, Brothers for All, which will provide income generation skills training for unemployed male youths as well as workshops to encourage positive male attitudes towards women and children.
It is our wish that these two products will come to symbolise this campaign and constantly remind us all of the sanctity of everyone’s life and of the gentle Hilda from Maun, and others like her, who suffered so much in silent fear. Every woman and child should be able to grow up in a world free from prejudice, fear and abuse.