Dineo Mogapi is the matron of the Kagisano shelter, Botswana’s first refuge for abused women. With one year of service behind her, Mogapi is proud to proclaim her shelter’s many successes. “When women leave here they contact us later to say things have really improved,” she declared. Mogapi has arranged shelter for 23 women and counseled 138 others in the past year.
Mogapi and her shelter’s staff feel that it is important to counsel husbands as well as wives, and does so whenever possible. When the husbands refuse to speak with her, she requests help from other family members. Men who have abused their wives are asked to admit that their abuse was wrong and must pledge to change their behavior.
A study released by the Department of Women’s Affairs suggests that only about 1% of women who suffer domestic abuse seek help from NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and that a much larger percentage (65%) seek help from relatives. Of the 735 research subjects, 60% percent said they have been abused in the past five years, and 25% said they had been beaten on a regular basis.
Traditional cultural values of male superiority and female servitude are thought to encourage violence against women. Women who attempt to challenge their husbands’ supposed superiority through disobedience or disrespect are thought by many to be deserving of violent retribution.