SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (SGBV) AND MENTAL HEALTH
We cannot leave the elimination of SGBV to chance-- we must protect children from all its forms, including sexualised bullying, and verbal and physical sexual harassment, in schools and otherwise.
Movements and protests in the past four years in Namibia – #METOONamibia, The Slut Shame Walk, #ShutItAllDown and others – have reiterated the country’s sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) crisis. A recently-published publication by Disrupting Harm in Namibia offers a new context to the problem: online child sexual exploitation and abuse, which, according to the report, has affected an estimated 20,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the country.
We can no longer sit in silence; this is a crisis that must be addressed urgently and decisively.
And because we know the relationship between mental health and SGBV, we know that we must equally address the provision of and access to mental health services in Namibia, especially in schools.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Social Services show that between January 2021 and May 2022, there were 679 instances of suicide, of which 29 were children. Between 2018 and 2019, the suicide rate in the country at 458, of which 18 were children. These increases in suicides are indicators of increasing levels of depression and other mental illnesses, visible in schools and elsewhere; caused by increasing violence and trauma-inducing incidences, the COVID-19 global pandemic, and others factors. And they need to be addressed urgently.
Fortunately, experts believe that schools -- at all levels -- are important and proven sites for normative change, and have the potential to address harmful beliefs and practices, and reduce stigmas, including those which pertain to mental health services and mental wellbeing.
We believe them, and we’re working with our stakeholders to ensure that school environments are free of harmful beliefs and practices, and that mental health services are made accessible in schools and elsewhere.
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