Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Snowball Effect

Picture: Conducting land transfer focus group (from left to right: Youth, Kazungula Ke Kosi (Cheif), Lyndsay, Myself, VDC member)

You might think it strange that I haven’t written much about day to day life and what I am actually doing work wise here. The reason for this is while work is super interesting and quite the learning experience it is also emotionally draining. I have had the opportunity to sit in on paralegal advice and mediation meetings with our boss and some of the different people passing through the office looking for help. And while these meetings are confidential I can insure you that listening to stories of abuse, emotion, trickery, and drama leave me feeling as if I have just stepped into a novel. As the words pour out of the people mouths, can see them as if written on the pages of the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency.

Lyndsay and my personal project has been to write an action study report on land transfers in the Chobe district. Conducting three separate studies in the communities of Kazungula, Losoma, and Pandamatanga. This has entailed meetings with Land Board, The Ke Kossi (Village Chief), Village Development Council, data collection from the register, running a focus group with key respondents and youth and also conducting interviews throughout the community.

We have first hand experienced what Ntema calls the snowball effect. A compiling of issues ultimately building off of each other. Landlessness further amplifying poverty, leading to alcohol and substance abuse, prostitution, increased HIV/AIDS, OVCs (orphans and venerable children). In alignment with Ditshwanellos mandate the programs goal is poverty eradication rather then poverty elevation. This problem is tackled with a multi dimensional approach of awareness, advice and advocacy. Through informing people of their rights and the value of their land we are able to target the problem of landlessness created by the increased number of land transfers by vulnerable people.

In the interview process we have come across three obstacles so far. First off the always impeding language barrier. Even though English and Setswana are the two national languages in Botswana, many people speak their traditional tribal language still and only have broken Setswana or English. In many cases Susan has had to help translate. We have slowly been picking up bits of Setswana and along with basic introductions have mastered the phrase “No I am not trying to buy your land.” The second thing working against us has been the issue of substance abuse. Finding ourselves limited to the mornings as after lunch an alarming number of people hanging around are drunk and along with extended conversation its just generally more difficult. The most personal and challenging hurdle I have encountered is that often when people hear we are from the human rights office they ask for help and so with no expertise other then an open ear and empathetic nod we listen to their stories…

No papers. Signed papers. Wrong papers. A young girl sick. Growing tumor.Shrinking heath. A toddler going hungry. No uniforms no school. A mother overworked. Searching for work. A dead father. Drunk father. No father.

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