Call 116, Sioka tells teens

Otis Daniels_Finck
Okuka ∙ [email protected]

“Please call 116.” These were the words of gender minister Doreen Sioka to adolescents and youth, urging them to report physical and sexual violence committed against them.

Sioka quoted a report by her ministry which shows that roughly four out of every 10 girls and nine out of every 20 boys have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence as children.

The report also discovered that four out of 10 boys and three out of 10 girls are physically abused before the age of 18.

She said adolescents aged 12 to 17 have suffered the most physical violence, with two out of every three girls and eight out of every 13 boys reporting physical violence.

Ironically, Sioka made the remarks at the commemoration of the Day of the Namibian Child at Okaku constituency office in Oshana Region on Tuesday.

Her announcement to teenagers and young people comes as Oshana chief inspector Hamukoshi Kamati reported that a 30-year-old woman was arrested at Oshakati’s Okandjengedi this week for allegedly raping an 11-year-old boy.

Kamati said the woman, who is related to the victim, is expected to appear in Oshakati Magistrate’s Court today. He said the suspect allegedly shares a room with the victim and the alleged rapes took place on 24 and 26 September.

Please seek support

“If you are concerned with someone's behaviour towards you, please seek support from social workers or phone the toll-free hotline – 116. To call this number, you do not need to have any credit. We are here to assist you,” Sioka pleaded.

The day was celebrated under the theme ‘30 years after the adoption of the charter: Accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for a Namibia fit for children’. This theme is derived from the African Union member states’ commitment to protect children.

She said amidst the devastating effects of Covid-19, less attention was given to taking care of children and protecting them as the entire country’s focus shifted towards preventing the spread of the virus.

Sioka said the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on children may not be quantifiable in terms of illnesses or deaths, but it is visible in terms of lack of access to vital services such as education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation and water.

“The lack of such services during the Covid-19 lockdown puts them at risk of sexual, physical and emotional exploitation. Therefore, I urge everyone - as we are celebrating the Day of the Namibian Child - we need to take cognisance of this impact on the Namibian child,” she said.

Reducing violence

Sioka said in order to reduce violence, the ministry performed a study with the goal of increasing Namibia's capacity to design and implement violence prevention programmes, as well as to build and improve successful child protection systems in compliance with the Child Care and Protection Act.

The ministry, in collaboration with the Namibia Statistics Agency and with the support of the Centre for Disease Control and the United Nations Children's Fund, completed this study to estimate the national prevalence of physical, emotional and sexual violence in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.

“I want to encourage all young people here to take care of themselves. Be aware of what is going on around you and seek assistance if you believe you are in danger,” she said.

“Identify a person in your community with whom you feel comfortable talking and explain your concerns. In general, girls and boys, be proud of your body and don't let someone touch you in any way that makes you feel uneasy,” Sioka added.

She said the ministry is hard at work considering how to properly respond to this situation and is leading the process of establishing a national plan of action to address violence against children. This, she said, will be a five-year approach to address some of the survey’s findings.