Botswana has high rate of Gender Based Violence (GBV). This human rights violation permeates into the workplace. Statistics by the United Nations Population Fund indicate that in Botswana, one in three women has experienced GBV in their lifetime.

UNFPA Communications Analyst, Priscilla Rabasimane stated that, “UNFPA’s vision is to cultivate an organisational culture of care that nurtures a safe, trusted, respectful and inclusive environment.” Rabasimane explains that UNFPA has zero tolerance for all forms of sexual wrongdoing, whether perpetrated against a recipient of assistance or a co-worker. Sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment violate human rights and are a betrayal of the core values of the United Nations.

Rabasimane revealed that in Botswana 36.5 per cent perpetrated by intimate partners and 15 per cent experienced GBV during pregnancy. Women who had not worked in the past 12 months experienced higher rates of violence at 22 per cent, compared to women who worked during the same period at 15 per cent.

Women with disabilities are up to three times more vulnerable to GBV than men; 22 per cent of adolescents in school had a forced first sexual experience, particularly girls under the age of 15. These statistics make UNFPA determined to create a safe working environment. Rabasimane states that UNFPA takes measures to prevent misconduct, and protect women against sexual harassment. These measures include improving policies and procedures, strengthening reporting and investigations, investing in vetting of personnel, partners and risk mitigation measures in programs, and awareness building among agency staff and partners.

In addition to these internal efforts, UNFPA works with partners and the government to address gender and power inequalities and harmful social norms and practices that normalize violence and are a breeding ground for sexual misconduct. These are longer-term objectives that require going beyond raising awareness and disseminating information.

According to Rabasimane, UNFPA has policies that protect workers against sexual harassment. These efforts are guided by a coherent regulatory framework of policy documents and complementary resources. Additionally, UNFPA has a dedicated policy on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). It embodies the principle of zero tolerance for wrongdoing, including sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment. In addition, the Policy on Protection against Retaliation sets forth a framework and a procedure for the protection of UNFPA personnel from retaliation.

Rabasimane states that they do not partner with entities that fail to appropriately address sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment. As UNFPA operates mainly through implementing partners, recent efforts have focused on ensuring that implementing partners have adequate capacities to prevent, respond and provide assistance.

UNFPA has institutional experience in responding to gender-based violence, hence ensuring access to quality assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse is core priority. In collaboration with its partners, UNFPA offers crucial assistance and support to victims. In 2020, UNFPA implemented the United Nations Protocol on the Provision of Assistance to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), which aims to elaborate a common set of norms and standards to strengthen a coordinated, system-wide approach to the provision of assistance and support, prioritizing the rights and dignity of victims. Victims of SEA are able to access assistance through gender-based violence services.