Today marks the International Women's Day (IWD)
This year, Botswana commemorates the importance of this occassion through Beijing+20, a global campaign celebrating progress towards gender equality since the landmark Beijing Platform for Action was signed 20 years ago. Botswana and 189 othher countries adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap for women's rights and empowerment, which focuses on different issues that were identified as key constraints to women's human rights. The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs on Thursday celebrated the day in Molepolole under the theme "Beijing +20-Where are we?" The theme for IWD 2015, sensitises us to look back at how far we have come in achieving gender balance between men and women and highlights what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.
When we look back, reflect and introspect we should speak about tangible results that have been achieved in the 20 years since Beijing. As remains the case in some sections of society Beijing was and still is a talkshop for elite women in cities and towns, who meet to chat over tea in upmarket resorts and come up with all sorts of ideas completely out of sync with the situation on the ground. Women in rural areas know very little if not nothing about this Beijing thing as it has remained a conference/ workshop subject for the elite. Ordinary women cannot articulate its objectives or how it stands to benefit them. This, therefore leaves in the same place they have always been.
Research has shown that women are breadwinners in a large majority of singled headed households, raising several children on their own under very difficult circumstances. It is for this reason that government and other stakeholders should put women empowerment at the forefront of their mandate to pull them out of their hardships.
Although Botswana always brags about being among the top countires where women have a high percentage in leadership and government, we are failing dismally in political leadership. Younger democracies have eclipsed Botswana by deliberately putting in place strategies to facilitate their entry into political office, while the male dominated administration here dilly-dallys. If government is committed to empowering women why then is she refusing to sign the SADC gender protocol to advance such a course?
We are aware that government has put up some programmes targeting women to empower them economically. But what good is a programme only known by already empowered women in towns and cities when the majority in the hinterlands are left out. These are the most marginalised, wallowing in squalor and are the worst culprits who bear the brunt of the suffering brought about by gender inequalities. Emphasis should be paid to raising awareness and sensiting these pockets of women to encourage them to take up government assistance to improve their livelihood.