Botswana fared badly on women empowerment especially in political leadership and those in cabinet, revealed SADC Programme Officer for Research, Gender Unit Monitoring and Evaluation Elizabeth Kakukuru at the ongoing SADC summit in Gaborone.
She said that SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and its addendum in 1998 set a target of 30% women representation in politics and decision making by 2005, adding that some countries are doing well while others are still lagging behind.
According to the report, Botswana scored 8% for women in parliament an increase by 0.5% from 7.9% in 2009. The country did well only in 2000 when they scored 18.2% but dropped drastically.
Currently they are only five women parliamentarians in Botswana parliament with only one being Same Bathobakae in the opposition. Out of the five, four were elected during the general elections while one was nominated by President Ian Khama and endorsed by parliament.
All the four women parliamentarians within the ruling party are members of cabinet with three holding full ministerial positions dropping the percentage from 18.8% in 2009 to 12.5% in 2014, while the highest scoring country is South Africa at 43% with DRC lagging behind at 10.7%.
Kakukuru attributed the low scoring to the first post past electoral system which is used in Botswana reasoning that it makes difficult for women to penetrate the male dominated political system.
Botswana is one of the countries that have not signed the SADC Gender and Development protocol with President Ian Khama quoted by the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer in 2012 citing the timeframes unrealistic, and some of the measures going to have serious resource implications that Botswana cannot guarantee.
President Khama has encouraged women to support each other as they are the majority while Leader of Opposition Duma Boko has accused women of being their worst enemies.
Debating the bill on National Policy on Gender and Development in parliament recently Boko said gender has been reduced to a self-referential tool which certain women seek to empower themselves and their close friends.
Botswana performed fairly well when dealing with women in central government scoring 35.3% as permanent secretaries and Director while heads of department were at 45.3% only being beaten by Seychelles 45% and Mauritius.
In the judiciary Botswana did well in magistrates as they were second with 56% while Seychelles led the park by 67% and strangely the two countries are the only ones who have not rectified the gender protocol.
Addressing the BDP Women’s wing congress, President said that government is supporting women by driving an informed agenda to ensure that they play an important role in the economy.
He said that Botswana government was keen on ensuring that there is a fair representation of women in all facets. Khama who will take over as SADC chairman on Monday from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said that Botswana has done well in terms of representation of women in senior positions.
Some of the challenges that the SADC region is facing in issues of gender equality according to Kakukuru include gender blind legal and policy frameworks, systemic gender inequality and socio economic development that promotes stereotypical attitudes towards women’s role in society.
She also mentioned structural rigidity within political parties and patriarchal systems of decision making as impediment to gender equality laced by lack of political will and commitment to genuine and sustainable gender equality coupled with non-enforcement and implementation of gender policies.
As a way of ensuring gender equality the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer recommend the strategic presidential appointments of women to parliament, cabinets, foreign missions and public service.
The report also calls for the affirmative action and employment equity laws and that political party’s place specific number of women on their party lists under the proportional representation.
In a side interview Kakukuru said that Botswana’s reasons for not signing the protocol are not convincing as most of the SADC protocol uses the same language and decisions are not taken through a vote but a consensus.
She said that they are going to review the protocol and push it implementation to 2020 and was optimistic the country will sign.
In Botswana only Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has affirmative action and is a thorny issue in some of their members. The party started using the affirmative action at their 2013 elective conference in Selibe Phikwe.
Former Speaker of the national assembly Margaret Nasha said that young women who aspire to be politicians must be nurtured, encouraged and supported in order to survive in the dog eat dog world of politics.
“This is a difficult terrain and we need to back to the drawing board and stop singing of saying women should be empowered without doing anything,” said the outspoken Nasha.
Nasha who is the first woman to become a speaker of the national assembly in Botswana gave credit to BCP for being the only party that has a deliberate policy on empowerment of women and the youth through affirmative action.
“They cannot do it alone while others are lagging behind as women we need to position ourselves by getting together and ensure that we play a pivotal role in political leadership,” Nasha said.
The only female opposition Member of Parliament in Botswana parliament Same Bathobakae said the starting point for ensuring women are decision makers in the political spheres has to start at political parties.
“We are currently advocating for affirmative action in our parties and currently drumming support for it to be presented and adopted at our next congress,” said Bathobakae adding that political education is needed especially for young female politicians.
Government should seriously consider funding political parties with emphasis on supporting women in their campaigns as it is expensive to run campaigns, said the Member of Parliament for Tlokweng.
Bathobakae who recently returned from the Pan African parliament said that Botswana can learn a lot from countries like Lesotho and Zimbabwe which are doing very in empowering women in their political parties.
Bathobakae resonates with the recommendation by SADC that countries should bench on Lesotho and Zimbabwe’s mixed member proportional representation with quota for women and Tanzania’s constitutional clause that specifies a minimum of 30% women representation in parliament.