Launch of the EIDHR CSO COVID19 Support Grants
Remarks by H E Jan SADEK
Ambassador of the European Union to Botswana and SADC
It is my pleasure and honour to welcome you all this morning to celebrate the launch of two EU funded grants in response to COVID-19 in Botswana.
I think you agree, this has indeed been an unusual year. We all look back at six months of social distancing and more than two months of lockdowns, school closures and the closing of non-essential services.
Botswana decided to respond to the pandemic with a very strict approach, including a State of Emergency, with closed borders and several lockdowns. I would say that this has led to a very successful – so far – management of the pandemic, with strong suppression of the infection rates, relatively few cases and only less than a dozen of deaths. Let me take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the government for keeping us safe. But we see now how the domestic cases increase again, and we need to be vigilant.
The situation is far from normal. And one evidence and reminder of that is that one of our partner organisations, the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre (BGBVC), has registered a COVID-19 case among its staff and thus they are prevented to participate here – in line with the COVID-protocols.
We are the more happy to welcome our other grantee here, DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights! Great to see Director Alice Mogwe and her colleagues here. And by meeting outside and respecting the social distancing, the wearing of masks etc, I am confident we can conduct this launch in a safe way. We would have wanted to see so many more of our friends, but it was not possible in the current circumstances.
The pandemic has been a great challenge for us all, here in Botswana and globally – with many deaths in other parts of the world. There is clearly a price being paid also on the economic side, on health systems and in social and psychosocial terms. At the same time I can only conclude that most of us here have managed somehow. But many of us are privileged… I did the lockdown with my family in this house and this garden – I should not really complain…
Today, we are here to focus on those who did not fall ill, but who did not manage the pandemic well – and they are many, in this country as well as in other countries. I am thinking of the groups of people who are in an especially vulnerable position or are highly exposed.
The lockdowns affected social patterns and family life, having to stay together all day, but for some the home became a prison, and a violent one. We have seen many reports of an increase in gender based and domestic violence around the globe, and unfortunately Botswana is no exception.
The issue is not new, Botswana, like many countries in Africa and in the rest of the world, see a lot of Gender Based Violence also in a normal year. It is one of the most common yet unacknowledged and serious human rights violations in the SADC region.
According to the 2018 National Relationship Study, one in three women in Botswana has experienced abuse in their lifetime. The World Population Review (2019) places Botswana in an unenviable second position on rapes, with 93 cases per 100 000 citizens. So actually there was a GBV crisis already before, but it has been exacerbated by the current pandemic due to the lockdowns and other restrictions.
And this is where our first grantee comes in, the BGBVC. From April to August 2020, more than 650 Gender Based Violence survivors received counselling services in Botswana. Temporary and emergency shelter was provided to almost 150 women, children and men around the nation, and the needs have been significantly higher than in previous years. BGBVC's role has been crucial in this response, being responsible for around 70% of the counselling and shelter services offered during this period.
Another important aspect to follow during the pandemic is the protection of Human Rights and vulnerable groups, since the state of emergency and other restrictions imposed by governments, while being crucial to the epidemiological response, they also risk weakening the human rights regime and constitutionally protected rights.
In this context, it is of great importance that organisations such as Ditshwanelo, can contribute to the safeguarding of constitutional rights, by supporting human rights defenders. And the work led by Ditswhanelo in addressing the situation of marginalised groups (including persons in places of detention, refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous peoples) is also very important in the context of the health emergency.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Early on in the crisis, the European Union decided the pandemic was a global concern that we could only manage together with our partners in an international effort filled with solidarity. On the multilateral side, this led to the EU strengthening its support to the WHO, and we are now the organisation’s number one supporter and donor. And we have organised a global vaccine pledge, which gathered some 100 billion Pula for vaccine research. If you want to learn more about this and other priorities for the EU, please study yesterday’s State of the Union Speech by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament.
The commitment to support Africa has been strong on our side, and here in Botswana, the EU and its Member States, or Team Europe as we call ourselves, we have launched a large package to support the national COVID-19 response to fight the Pandemic. The grants launched today are part of that package.
We, Team Europe, here represented also by France and Germany, started by donating 1.6 million Pula of PPEs and medical supplies to the Ministry of Health and then disbursed 27 million Pula to the treasury of Botswana to provide quick economic relief. Recently we decided to support the efforts of WHO and the Red Cross in Botswana, and now we are looking at supporting the beef and tourism value chains, as part of the long-term economic recovery efforts. And all of this in addition to our ongoing cooperation portfolio of more than 320 million Pula, where we are focusing on skills development, vocational training and support to economic diversification.
We have also supported the regional COVID response through SADC. Let me here mention only the Transit and Transport Facilitation programme which has been pivotal in facilitating cross-border transit of essential goods between SADC countries during this pandemic. We know how important this is for Botswana, which is landlocked and depending on South Africa for most of its imports.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
So todays launch is part of our COVID-19 response in Botswana. But the 5,7 million Pula grants to BGBVC and Ditshwanelo is also part of our support to civil society. The funds come from the so called European Instrument for Democracy and Human rights (EIDHR) which is one of the largest EU instruments dedicated to promote democracy and human rights worldwide through support to civil society initiatives. We do this because we believe in a flourishing civil society, and we are proud partners of the civil society in Botswana.
Speaking about civil society, I want to commend the work of the Tripartite Engagement & Collaboration Forum on COVID-19, which has proven to be a great platform for dialogue and exchanges between civil society, development partners and Government around issues of common interests linked to the COVID response. I am glad that the Tripartite forum is present here through its Chair, Mrs Maungo Mooki from Civic Commission for Africa.
I am confident that both, BGBVC and Ditshwanelo with these new grants, will also support coalition-building initiatives and capacity development of other CSOs working in the space of GBV and support to marginalized groups and will continue to feed into the work of the Tripartite Forum.
In closing, I would like to commend all of you who are contributing to Botswana's development objectives. I can only encourage you to continue working for the development of this country and its people, especially those less privileged.
I will now give the floor to each of our guests of honour today, for them to provide more details about the projects, their objectives, beneficiaries and expected results.
And I will be looking forward to meeting you again soon in order to learn about the achievements made by the projects on the ground, in support of vulnerable people in Botswana.
Ke a leboga.