How did the SGBV protests start?
Updated: Feb 13
Gender based violence, a pandemic prevalent in Southern Africa. Trigged this past year by the murder of Shannon Wasserfall.
Since April 10, a 22-year-old, Shannon Wasserfall, was missing after dropping off her son at a friend’s house in Kuisebmond, a coastal town in Namibia so she could go meet up with another friend.
Ever since then, she was reported missing with no update to her case until 6 months later, 6th of October, when her father, Tega Mathews, and other relatives received anonymous text messages saying Shannon’s body was buried in a shallow grave. And that they should attend to it urgently as people were seen around it.
The father informed the police who on the same day discovered a body that was later proved to be Shannon by the clothing remains and then officially by DNA.
However, before the DNA confirmation, a case of murder and defeating or obstructing the course of justice was already opened by the police.
A history of the protest following news of Shannon’s body
The discovery of Shannon’s body and the gruesome manner in which it was discovered and buried sparked nationwide protests led by young people calling for more serious measures against SGBV and human trafficking.
The very first protest on record was hosted in the area where Shannon is from which is also where her body was found, Walvis Bay. A group of young people from Walvis Bay took to the streets A day after the police found Shannon’s body demanding justice for her. The group marched to the Independence Market at KabeljouStreet, where Shannon was last seen.
The next protest was organized by Shannon’s family which took place on 9 Oct. A march from a police station and proceed to the site where the remains were found. It will end at the Walvis Bay municipality building. With the goal of handing over a petition to the mayor of Walvis Bay.
According to this source, the protests in Windhoek lasted over 5 days under the #Shutitalldown hashtag and aim. The aim was to essentially shut down the city to bring attention to what is happening now.
Hundreds of protestors set in the middle of an intersection stopping many cars from moving and they also blocked the entrance to one of the biggest malls in Windhoek.
The first day of the march was probably the most surprising for law enforcement agencies. Unable to anticipate the movements of the group to sufficiently prepare themselves, they were left scrambling and annoyed, especially when protesters stormed parliament.
After a tour past the Ministry of Justice, the group pushed through the gate at parliament, then ran right up to the front door where they were met by heavily armed police officers who would not budge.
The protesters stood their ground, waiting for someone, anyone, from parliament to receive their list of demands. The group then camped there for hours, singing and chanting.
The aim of the Windhoek #Shutitalldown protest
They asked for an immediate state of emergency for femicide in Namibia, 24/7 armed patrols around all neighborhoods, and the immediate resignation of the minister of gender equality, poverty eradication, and social welfare Doreen Sioka considering what the group terms a “sexual and gendered violence crisis” facing Namibians.
What is the context of this issue in Namibia and What are people frustrated about and the emotions around it?
According to (Shutitalldown posts curated by Anne Hambunda) 3 rape cases were reported each day to the Namibian Police Force between January 2019 and June 2020 (nationwide).
And in Windhoek alone, Namibia’s capital, the Gender-based Violence Protection Unit reported 66 cases every day between September 2019 and Dec 2018 - a 300 day period.
What has the government been doing?
In 1993, the Government established the first Woman and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) in Khomas Region, and to date another 14 WCPUs have been established countrywide. The WCPUs take a multi-sectoral approach to assisting victims of rape, domestic violence and other forms of GBV. Operated by Namibia’s police force.
They are also comprised of professionals such as medical doctors, nurses, social workers who provide medical services and counselling support to victims of GBV.
But according to Sigourney, they are unoperational due to budget constraints.
Brigit Mayloots also claims that these Units are understuffed with poorly and sensitized trained personnel, made up mostly of police officers. Although they have social workers at the units, they are few and not enough to do the work appropriately. The facilities also offer poor hospitality for victims that would be seriously endangered should they need to seek refuge there.
More recently: As part of Namibia’s Vision 2030 plan established in 2004 by the founding president, the government has been working to reduce SGBV cases and increase the quality of measures that respond to SGBV. The two key goals for the plan of action on SGBV.
Since this vision was established This is what happened: In June 2007, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW) organised a National Conference on Gender-Based Violence which was officially opened by the President of Namibia, His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, represented by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Hon. Dr Albert Kawana. The conference brought together over 350 participants from many organisations operating in all 13 regions of the country to formulate recommendations and strategies for addressing GBV which is regarded as a national scourge.
One of the major recommendations of the conference was a Zero Tolerance Campaign to be instituted across the country at national, regional, constituency and community levels.
It was also recommended that regional conferences on GBV be held nationwide to create more awareness, discuss local issues and build national capacity for addressing this problem.
Ministry facing budget problems and the minister is under pressure to resign:
The ministry has allegedly been claiming to be financially under resourced (as according to this article and our interviewees - Antonia & Sigourney)
However Antonia & Sigourney both claim that the ministry has been making low budget claims, running poor Woman and Child Protection Units yet the ministry of gender still didn’t use a significant amount of their funding. Which raises the question: What could that money have achieved? ANd is the minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare actually fit for their job?
This is why the #Shutitalldown protest have included the call for Doreen Sioka, the minister, to step down. Something Sister Namibia a prominent organization in the GBV space is vocal about. Antonia Ndumba may have mentione
In 2019: Source A popular social enterprise, MTC has launched the ‘MTC Knockout Project” in 2019 around this time of the year, bringing popular Namibian male figures to have exhibition boxing matches with the aim of creating awareness for SGBV.
Namibia recognized for gender-equality: Source:
In 2015, the Global Gender Gap Index ranked Namibia at the 16th place out of 145 countries globally. Namibia is the second country in Africa making progress towards closing the gender inequality gap.
This is notable with more women in decision making positions, narrowing gender parity in school enrolment. Despite progress made, real gender
Outcomes of the protests
Someone was arrested and appeared in court in connection to Shannon’s murder. Anticlimactically, the suspect is a female but that doesn’t deter or dispel the magnitude of this issue.
Source: A Walvis Bay resident, Azaan Madisia (28) made her first court appearance in the Walvis Bay magistrate court on charges of murder and obstruction of court of law in connection with Shannon Wasserfall’s disappearance.
The suspect was denied bail and the case postponed to 07 December 2020 for further investigations. Azaan Madisia also happens to be the godmother of Shannon’s son, the child Shannon dropped off at the house she was last seen before going missing.
Then prominent faces met the president in a closed-door meeting. Outcomes or main achievements from this are still unknown
According to Bertha Tobias, this meeting was meant for the president to understand the nuances of the collective outcry and begin a conversation for all parties to work together in solving this issue.
Check out our video with compelling interviews, narrative and information.