Johanna Wilkie

Johanna Wilkie (Breaking the Wall of Silence in Windhoek): Johanna lived and worked in Rome, Italy for two years teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). After her return to hometown of Boston, she taught immigrants and college students ESL for two years before moving to Los Angeles to work as a program manager at a California non-profit. At the time of her fellowship, Johanna was studying for a Masters degree in international affairs and development at Georgetown University, and working toward a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. She also interned at the International Rescue Committee as an Africa Advocacy Intern.

Global Week of Action

22 Jun


Every year in June, IANSA sponsors a Global Week of Action that highlights the negative consequences of gun violence around the world.  This year, one part of the Global Week of Action is Disarming Domestic Violence, a campaign to raise awareness about the link between guns and domestic abuse (I talked about this link in an earlier blog post).  Organizations in 28 countries are participating in spreading this message, and I am honored to be part of Namibia’s campaign.  You can read about how Advocacy Project Fellows are contributing to the campaign worldwide here.

The other week, the NANGOF Trust (the umbrella organization that represents Namibian NGOs, including the one I work for, Breaking the Wall of Silence) held a campaign launch event.  It was a panel discussion at a big hotel in downtown Windhoek, and we had four distinguished speakers, including two Members of Parliament and two representatives of civil society organizations.  All the speakers discussed the need for women to feel safe in their own homes.   Rosa Namises of the NGO Women’s Solidarity Namibia gave a particularly moving speech about women’s rights in Namibia and their continuing vulnerability to violence.

Pauline and the parliamentarians talked about how the firearms law here could be amended to improve safety – for example, by instituting a competency test that all gun owners would be required to take and renew.  One important part of any legal changes would be harmonizing the firearms legislation with the domestic violence legislation that they have here.  Harmonization simply means that the gun law prohibits ownership by domestic violence offenders, and the domestic violence law requires the removal of guns.  So far, harmonization has only been accomplished in four countries: Canada, Australia, Trinidad & Tobago, and our next-door neighbor, South Africa.  We’d like it to happen here in Namibia too.  It was great to see the two parliamentarians supporting these potential changes to the law.  Pauline hopes that debates in the relevant government ministries to institute the amendments could begin later this year.  It could definitely be an uphill battle though, as the gun dealer lobby and some in the hunting and farming communities are wary of any changes to firearm legislation.

Member of Parliament McHenry Venaani officially launches the campaign while MP Kaveri Kavari and Pauline Dempers listen.

Member of Parliament McHenry Venaani officially launches the campaign while MP Kaveri Kavari and Pauline Dempers listen.

Connected to the launch, Pauline and I were invited that same day to be interviewed on the national TV network, NBC TV.  We got up bright and early to be on Good Morning Namibia, the daily show that starts at 6 AM.  The anchor interviewed us for about 10 minutes live, and we talked about the problem, the legal side, and announced the launch event later that day.  It was a great opportunity to get the word out, and my first appearance on live TV!

We’ve also been working on getting the message out to the Windhoek community more generally through the Gun-Free Namibia campaign.  We visited two schools last week and talked to their staff to encourage their schools to become Gun-Free Zones.  Goreangab School in Katutura took on the challenge, so we’ll be returning soon to talk to the students and have an official ceremony.

It feels like the NANGOF Trust has a lot of momentum going with the campaign to end gun violence here in Namibia, and it’s very exciting for me to be here for it.  More updates soon.

Posted By Johanna Wilkie

Posted Jun 22nd, 2009

1 Comment

  • Elizabeth Mandelman

    June 23, 2009


    Way to go on bringing media attention to the issue, Johanna! Getting people to understand the importance and relevance of the subject is indeed an uphill battle. It seems that the gun lobby and farmers are louder at voicing their opinion and not open to hearing the benefits of such legislation, which makes it really difficult. If you’re interested in seeing some of what you’re up about, I would suggest reading my post from June 21st. Keep up the good work!

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