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Confronting Gender-Based Violence with the Power of Community
February 24, 2021

Sarah Mulwa
Sarah assembles a solar lamp for students without electricity.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is something Sarah Mulwa had to confront at a young age. At 16 years old, Sarah went to a friend’s house to study for an upcoming test. While studying, she and her friend heard cries from a woman in the house next door. When they hurried to help, they found a man had locked his wife inside the house and was beating her. Many concerned neighbors arrived and came together to break a window to save the woman. For Sarah, this incident reassured her of the power of community. She says, “If a community comes together, it can protect their own. However, we need to remind the community time and time again to protect each other. This is the reason I do the work I do.” 

Sarah unites her community as the founder and trustee of Now for Them. Her organization creates inclusion in vulnerable communities in rural Botswana. Through the Marang a Thato (Sunlight for Education) program, her organization assembles and donates solar lamps for students without electricity in rural areas with high GBV rates. Not only does Sarah’s program help improve school grades, the program also eliminates the daily purchase of paraffin candles, ensures female-headed households full lighting at night to ward off danger, and delivers marketable skills for financial independence from abusive partners. Marang a Thato emphasizes empowering youth and women to pursue work in the energy and electricity sector, typically a male-dominated field. 

In 2019, Sarah’s nongovernmental organization received funding through a partnership with U.S. Embassy Gaborone to encourage and inspire women to participate in governance. She says, “The U.S. Embassy has been the reason for my success in reaching my goals to empower vulnerable communities.” She adds that the embassy has exposed her to a wide array of donors and advisers who have continued to help promote and support her organization’s mission across Botswana. In addition to her partnership with the U.S. Embassy, Sarah is a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, which she says gave her the affirmation she needed to pursue her dreams. 

To continue strengthening communities and leadership locally, Sarah explains that women who are successful in STEM, energy and related fields need to demonstrate their success to young girls, challenge gendered employment barriers, and inspire women to fulfill their potential. Sarah Mulwa

For Sarah, YALI Network members are leaders, but sometimes she finds that the fear of making mistakes can hold members back from taking chances. She says, “Take the leap, and make the mistakes! They are part of the journey, lead! You belong to a network of other leaders in whatever you pursue. Lean on them for the support you need as I have leaned on many of the Botswana Mandela Washington Fellows and the U.S. Embassy of Gaborone. Each time they come through, we grow together.”

Learn more about Sarah’s work and dedication to strengthening communities in her 2019 Africa4Her guest blog, “How to Raise Awareness About GBV in Rural Areas.”

Are you interested in learning more about women’s empowerment? Visit our Africa4Her page for more tools and resources. 

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.