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#BeTheChange: Alcohol industry initiates gear shift

Under their Savannah non-alcoholic brand, Distell Namibia recently ran the #BeTheChange media campaign, encouraging the Namibian public to “shift the gears of change” in compliance with road safety measures.

Hearing about a new motor vehicle accident on social media, radio, or television, or experiencing one for yourself on the road in Namibia is no longer unusual-no matter how tragic. Some accidents happen by chance, but according to a study by the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund in 2020, people are responsible for 72% of all car crashes in Namibia.

These statistics should help Namibians understand the importance of reducing risky behaviours on our roads. It is at times like these that the private sector must step in and supplement the Namibian government’s efforts to improve road safety in the country.

Beverly Jandrell, Distell’s trade marketing manager, said, “We’re a socially responsible company. Namibia has a road safety problem, so we created this campaign to raise awareness and hopefully inspire long-term behaviour changes.”

Conceivable change

Distell Namibia used images that parallel its iconic Savannah non-alcoholic lemon motif to show how “fresh” it is to follow road safety rules, like staying under the speed limit, and how “whack” it is to not do so.

The MVA Fund report further indicates that road safety violations include actions such as speeding, unsafe overtaking, distractive driving, and a general disregard for the rules of the road, but positively highlights an average annual decrease of 8% in the number of road crashes from 2016 to 2020. People can change, but continued change requires constant efforts and maintenance, says clinical psychologist Edwina Mensah-Husselmann from Geluk Psychology Services in Windhoek.

“Even if we managed to change our destructive behaviours, there are times when we might slip back into those patterns. Stress and other triggers can cause this. Sometimes destructive behaviours are rooted in traumatic experiences, which require further therapy to dig deeper into those memories and unwanted behaviours.”

She said people should always be hopeful, have faith, and be positive about change and managing conditions.

Industry commitment

Distell Namibia’s #BeTheChange says its campaign is just one instance of the Namibian alcohol industry’s commitment to reducing the social harms related to the misuse of their products.

The Self-Regulatory Alcohol Industry Forum (SAIF), founded by leading alcohol producers and distributors in Namibia, including Distell Namibia, believes the industry’s health is tied to the health of society.

“We believe in promoting and advocating for responsible behaviour so that the average consumer can make informed decisions that are in their best interests.”

“We cannot force people, but we can encourage positive changes through educating them on the individual and collective benefits of such changes,” shared SAIF representative Horst Heimstadt.

Mensah-Husselmann agrees and explains realising that individual behaviours are harmful to mental and physical health is key.

“Being aware is important—studying yourself and your relationship with alcohol can spark change. Through self-introspection, you have to make a pact with yourself to heal and grow positively by using the information you’ve gathered. Small steps and goals will get you further to your goal of sobriety or alcohol management. We have to be serious about self-improvement and be true to ourselves to lead healthier and better lives.”

Responsible choices

The campaign also highlighted the use of non-alcoholic products as an alternative for drivers to ensure road safety and eliminate drunk driving. Through including non-alcoholic versions of their popular drinks, companies such as Distell provide consumers with the opportunity and capability to make responsible choices.

“All road users need to adhere to national road safety guidelines. However, drivers carry an added responsibility on the road, being accountable for the lives of others in their vehicles. “It was key to target the message at drivers during the past public holidays and subsequent ‘long weekends’ to motivate them to adopt or continue to maintain responsible and lawful driving behaviour,” Jandrell continued.

Knowledge is power

While the #BeTheChange campaign has a message that resonates with all Namibian road users, consistent exposure to harm reduction knowledge is pivotal to changing behaviour gradually. Exposing the public in this manner may ultimately influence their perspectives on negative behaviour that have been normalised as acceptable.

Mensah-Husselmann resolves, “To ensure permanent change is to believe in the course of change. Each day, as a society, we must try to change, apply, and model it. Our lifestyles must reflect that. It’s up to this generation to reform social norms. We can’t control others, but we can be the change we want to see.”

“As the well-known expression goes, “Rome was not built in a day” and creating safer roads will not be accomplished overnight. However, it is the responsibility of the entire country, including individuals, to play their part through reflecting on their own behaviours because it is up to us to #BeTheChange.”

For support visit SAIF social media accounts or contact Geluk Psychology Services at Tel. 081 772 4334.

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