By: Kelvin Chiringa
A deafening silence marked the aftermath of the waves of protest against gender-based violence that rocked Namibia precisely 12 months ago.
The protests dubbed #ShutItAllDown was spearheaded by youths who felt they needed to make a statement against rampant cases of GBV.
It was sparked by outrage at the murder of 22-year old Shannon Wasserfall, whose remains were discovered days after she went missing in 2020.
The incident generated a build-up of debate on social media behind the hashtag ShutItAllDown before pouring into the streets of Windhoek, leading to more than five days of rage.
It would ignite more protest action in various regions of the country and question the seriousness of state machinery in the fight against femicide.
Those that dared the tear-gas and police arrests called for an end to the spiking cases of sexual gender-based violence-related murders and rapes, leading to a petition read out at Zoo Park before the demo hit parliament.
It was considered the largest mobilisation of young voices. It was by far the loudest cry ever made in a nation gripped by the demons of violence and gruesome murders, even against minors and newborn babies.
All in all, an estimated 400 took to the streets.
Its impact was deepened by police crackdown widely condemned and the arrest and detention of activists, including journalists, to the point that it attracted the attention of the State House.
On the 8th of October 2021, this week marked precisely a year after President Hage Geingob.
It was the highest level reached by the protestors to hack a sustainable path towards closer collaboration between the institutions of state and the activists on the ground.
Fundamental to their list of grievances was that Geingob declared a state of emergency over sexual gender-based violence.
A year letter, what has been achieved and what has changed?
The Villager engaged some of those at the forefront of the protest movement that brought the plight of women and girls to the surface.
“We are yet to find out what was discussed at Statehouse. Was anything realised out of what was discussed from Statehouse?
“Even the organisers have yet to talk about what influenced them to go to the streets against GBV. So, we are still to find out some of these things,” said Shelleygun Peterson, who covered the protest.
The protestors also demanded armed response units and special training for police in dealing with such cases.
“I could say that we are happy with the stance that we took and the action that came after the stance that we took, but I still feel that we lack a little bit in safety measures and in protocols that stand for victims, past and future. I still feel like we can do better in putting down legislation that makes sure that we have systems in place in regards to maybe policing and security so we can deal with this,” said one protestor.
Peterson said she tried to get answers from the government on what progress had been made a year later.
“When I sent questions to the ministry of higher education to ask them about the demands made by this group of young people, whether they had met any of them, they were completely unable to answer me,” she said.
Meanwhile, post the protests, cases of rape continued to feature in the media, as the high court tightened its sentences for convicted perpetrators.
The Swapo party has also come under fire for appointed a convicted rapist into its think-tank.
“You can see that there is a spike in rape cases. I do not see the ministry doing anything because these young people demonstrated at the ministry of gender. These ministers promised things that till today, most had not been done,” said Julia Heita, who reported on the demos.
For Peterson, more still needs to be done.
“As we look at the combating of rape amendment bill that was supposed to be tabled in parliament and discussed and finalised, we are in October, and that bill is still to see the light of the day in parliament.
“As we look at schools, soon after the Shut it down movement earlier this year, we had another case of alleged sodomy. A teacher was accused of sexually assaulting one of the students there, and that case is ongoing.
“We still have these things happening, and if you look at the training of police officers, we are yet to see some of these things realised. We can’t even say that the behaviour of society has changed. What has changed is that the conversation now is going. Understand that these young people took to the streets, and if we do not change anything, they will go back,” she said.