– Zorena Jantze
SITTING by the reception desk of the Rights Not Rescue Trust’s (RNRT) office, Daniel Ashanti Koos spends the quiet winter morning basking in the little sunlight that streams in through the front window.
The transwoman, who is currently in the midst of a court battle, was last year thrust into the limelight when a video of her being tied up to a chair and then whipped by former politician and tribal leader, Frans Migu /Goagoseb. The video went viral.
Koos, aged 22, is but one of the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other identifying persons (LGBTQ+) who sought rehabilitation and refuge at RNRT after experiencing physical abuse or some form of violence due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The young woman, despite these harrowing circumstances, seems to be in positive spirits.
She smiles and tells me that she feels certain she will win her civil suit in which she has sued her attacker, /Goagoseb, for close to half a million Namibian dollars.
“Until today, I need more counselling for my mental wellbeing. The stigma in the location is also too much. When I walk in the streets, people taunt me and sing, ‘Ou Migu, Ou Migu’.
“I have been attacked by strangers. I thought Windhoek would be better when I came from Gobabis, but it’s the same all around,” Koos says.
The young transwoman explains that her injuries transcend beyond just the mental challenges and adds that one of her eyes has been permanently damaged due to the gruesome attack last year.
Koos, who is now employed at the Rights Not Rescue Trust says life has, nonetheless, been bearable because of the supportive group of people around her.
“When I was in grade four, my biological father rejected me and said he wasn’t my father due to the fact that I was trans. My mother passed on in 2018 and my extended family doesn’t like me all too much due to my sexuality.
“I want to say thanks to Mama Africa, RNRT and the Positive Vibes organisation. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t know where to go,” Koos added.
Mama Africa, the founder of the RNRT, explains that the trust was founded in 2008 after a serial killer targeted sex workers and dumped their severed remains alongside the B1 road.
She adds that the organisation since expanded its activism towards the LGBTQ+ as well as vulnerable populations such as prisoners, young girls and woman.
“My focus is mostly on the wellbeing of the people that walk through that door.
“Yes, abuse victims get referral services to health care facilities and criminal cases are opened, however so little attention is paid to their mental health and support systems. Some of these abused persons become suicidal,” Mama Africa explains.
Adding to this, she says many LGBTQ+ persons have come knocking at her door, some rejected by their families and others fleeing the environments in which they stay after being physically attacked.
“Most cases get withdrawn, however, the person cannot continue staying in that phobic environment. Government doesn’t even have safe houses or havens for women fleeing domestic abuse. The system is weak so we have to take care of each other as a community,” Mama Africa says.
Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 pandemic situation has thrown a wrench in the services provided by the trust, but, the work continues.
Due to the situation, Mama Africa says, she cannot take in many people. But, fortunately, most of the individuals who have sought the services of the trust are currently re-integrating into society.