While the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs continues to strive to better its service provision to Batswana, shortage of funds remains the biggest challenge. Funds for some of their key projects have been depleted with the hard hit being the Department of Gender Affairs’ Woman Economic Empowerment (WEE) programme. This has seen applications for this programme suspended since February this year. A number of Batswana have been complaining over the rejection of their applications. Minister Edwin Batshu said the revision of the Woman Economic Empowerment programme in 2015 to include individuals and groups of two instead of five has led to an increase in the number of applications. Batshu said as at 31 January 2017 a total of 4,478 proposals were received by the ministry. Of these proposals the minister said only 1000 were approved for funding and to date 708 applications are being funded to the tune of approximately P134.3 Million. The ministry also had a backlog of 3,825 applications as at 1st February 2017 which led to the ministry suspending receipt of new applications to deal with backlog. From the 3,825 only 347 applications were approved with rest rejected. Currently 270 approved projects are yet to be funded as there is no funding.
According to Batshu, they are currently in the process of asking government for supplementary funds to fund the 270 projects at the tune of P58.3 Million. He said as much as it is painful for the ministry, the programme will remain suspended until funds are sourced. Batshu said the suspension that effected 1st February 2017 was due an increased number of applications as well as shortage of funds. Batshu said the ministry notes with concern the increased number of complaints from people whose applications were not approved for funding. The minister, however, said as much as this is painful to the ministry, there is nothing they can do if money is not there. “There will be no use for us to keep approving applications for funding while there is no money for such activity. It was only fitting that we return the proposals to their owners so that the y can use them for other available programmes,” he said.
The minister called on Batswana to be patient and hopeful as the ministry is still trying to find ways of addressing the situation. “We are currently trying to source funding for the 270 projects that are already approved as well as more funds to start again the programme to invite new applications. I therefore plead with the nation to bear with us as we continue to address the matter,” said Batshu. The acting Gender Affairs Director, Tumelo Maiketso, nonetheless said while receipt of new applications is suspended it does not mean there is no service rendered at her department. Maiketso said the department continues to work on other mandates it is given. She said they continue to work towards creating a gender sensitive environment for all as well as promote gender equality. “As we strive to enhance our services to Batswana we have opened more office around the country so that people can easily access us,” said Maiketso. The Gender Affairs department head office has since moved from the ministry to the Central Business District (CBD) in Gaborone.