Raising an infant behind bars: The story of Jaezuruka Kamongua

WINDHOEK: 32-year-old Jaezuruka Beverly Kamongua never imagined being a single mother, let alone raising a newborn baby behind the four corners of the Windhoek Correctional Facility. She is currently one of many female offenders serving time and allowed to raise her ten-month-old baby within the facilities.

Jaezuruka, who was born and raised in Okakarara, is a mother of five children and is currently serving her sentence for charges of human trafficking and rape after being found guilty a year ago and sentenced to an effective term of 20 years. At the time she started serving her sentence, Jaezuruku was three-months pregnant. She has since been allowed to birth her child and care for the child until the age of two, at which point the child will be handed over to family members or social workers in the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.

Although saddened by the harsh reality that she will soon have to part ways with her baby, Jaezuruka stated that she is content knowing that
she will be raised in the care of her family.

‘It is really sad, but at the end of the day, I am here to serve my sentence, so next year she is going home to my family members and I will feel very bad, but there is nothing that I can do. I am grateful to the correctional facility because they also provide formula for babies and other nutritional needs. They also provide nappies and clothes,’ she tells this agency.

The Namibian correctional facility has set up a rehabilitating programme that allows female offenders to raise their babies in a safe environment, including catering for the babies’ day-to-day meals.

Asked if the father of the baby plays a role in her life, Kamongua says he is actively involved and even sends money to support the little one.

‘The correctional facility doesn’t give snacks, so with that money, I buy snacks for the baby,’ she adds.

Jaezuruka also stated that once the baby turns two years old and has left the facility, she would like to take up needlework and carpentry lessons to g
ain some skills while serving her time.

‘At the moment I am not allowed to enrol for studies as I have to raise the baby and ensure that she is healthy. Nursing mothers are also not allowed to clean or engage in any other activities apart from looking after the babies,’ she explains.

Approached for comment, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare’s Chief Public Relations Officer, Lukas Haufiku, stated that the ministry plays a secondary role in this particular context, with the Namibia Correctional Services being at the forefront of the programme.

The Namibian Correctional Service in Windhoek, which as of this year holds 130 female detainees, has, with the support of the Office of the First Lady, set up a child-friendly environment within the facility for children under the age of two to assist with building and maintaining bonds

between mother and baby. The first lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos collaborated with UNFPA Namibia earlier this year

and distributed 130 cosmetic
packets and baby bags to address the lack of childcare supplies within the correctional service.

Jaezuruka’s arrest pertains to an incident in which she, along with another woman, recruited a 16-year-old girl for sexual exploitation by Fahran Khatri, a Pakistani national, for payment. The two women took the victim to Khatri’s house at Walvis Bay, where he committed sexual acts with her under coercive circumstances. The incidences happened in 2018, court records indicate.

Jaezuruka said in an interview with Nampa that to date, she has not apologised to the victim although she has accepted the court’s punishment.

‘Getting involved with the wrong friends and trying to please others is what got me in jail. I do not have a problem serving my sentence, I accept it. I do not have a problem apologising to the victim but the issue is that we do not have contact and we never met. The lawyer I had at the time of the trial also never advised me to apologise. I do not want to apologise to my victim on this platform. Th
e Namibia Correctional Facility will soon introduce a programme that allows offenders to apologise to victims face to face. I will utilise that programme when it starts,’ Jaezuruka explains.
Source: Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA)