The Year 2017 has been a good year for the gender agenda in Botswana. After gender activists campaigned for the country to be signatory to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development for years, Government relented and put pen to paper in May. This made Botswana the 13th member of the regional body to sign the protocol leaving only Mauritius behind. Although the government of Botswana had argued that even though she has not been signatory to the protocol, she nonetheless by far managed to performed even better than members who have been signatory for years, activists felt that being a signatory would formalise the need for government to give priority to gender issues and the plight of women. Among other things the protocol demands that state parties must put in place affirmative action measures with particular reference to women in order to eliminate all barriers which prevent them from participating meaningfully in all spheres of life and create a conducive environment for such participation and also address domestic legislation. It prescribes that state parties shall review, amend and or repeal all laws that discriminate on the ground of sex or gender by 2015. It also outlines that state parties shall enact and enforce legislative and other measures to ensure equal access to justice and protection before the law, abolish the minority status of women by 2015, eliminate practices which are detrimental to the achievement of the rights of women by prohibiting such practices and attaching deterrent sanctions and eliminate gender-based violence. It also states that parties shall enact and adopt appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that women and men enjoy equal rights in marriage and are regarded as equal partners in marriage. This part of the protocol also addresses marriage of children. It states that no persons under the age of 18 shall marry, unless otherwise specified by law, which takes into account the best interests and welfare of the child. The above and many other articles from the protocol which are not stated indicate that Botswana has taken a step in the right direction by being signatory.
Parliament & Politics
Women in politics were dealt a hard blow late last year when the Member of Parliament for Tlokweng Same Bathobakae, passed on unexpectedly. Bathobakae was one among five female members of parliament out of an overall total of 63 seats in the assembly consisting of 57 MPs directly elected from constituencies, four specially elected MPs. Bathobakae won the Tlokweng constituency against her competitor from the ruling party with a land slide margin. A male candidate from her party – the Botswana National Front – was nominated to contest the by-election that followed after her death and he won. The number of women in parliament has however not moved down as a month prior to Bathobakae‘s untimely death, two more Specially elected MPs were nominated by President Ian Khama and endorsed by Parliament. One among them happened to be the youthful internationally trained economist and policy analyst Bogolo Kenewendo. Kenewendo seem to be so far faring quite well. She has impressed many by not only contributing and pushing the gender agenda during parliament debates, she has also tabled a number of progressive motions in Parliament one of which called on government to consider creating sexual predators and offenders register and ban sexual abuse offenders from working in institutions dealing with children. The motion received overwhelming support in Parliament and has been passed. Meanwhile, the number of women in Parliament continues to be low. Their representation in political party NECs for example is also wanting. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party held a highly competitive elective congress in July this year, and in the two lobby list that contested in the elections the number of women was low if not non -existent. The situation is the same even among opposition ranks; women hardly hold any significant positions of leadership and power.
Women in Sports
Women like their male counterparts are contributing a great deal to the development of sports and its advancement in the country either administratively or as athletes. Botswana successfully hosted the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup (NWYC), the first international event in Africa by International Netball Federation (INF). Tebogo LebotseSebego and her team delivered a world class execution with international standards and flair and were hailed by many for a job well done. LebotseSebego was later awarded a certificate of honour by President Khama for her efforts in the country winning the 2017 World Netball Youth Cup bid as well as the immaculate organisation of the tournament. Although they didn’t bring a medal home, a women’s 400m relay team, anchored by veteran Amantle Montsho, made their mark at the 2017 IAAF World championships. However, the ugly face of sports towards women manifested during the race for the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) executive leadership when an all-women lobby list spearheaded by LebotseSebego lost elections. Their campaign was anchored on the fact that as women who have already attained the highest of achievements academically and professionally including in sports administration, they will not be using the gender card (as expected by most) but wanted their credentials to speak for them, hence their slogan: #BokgoniFela. Five of them Tebogo LebotseSebego, Naledi Dikgomo-Goulden, Keenese Katisenge, Anastasia Makwa, and Irene Ntelamo except Yarona Sharp lost the elections