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Better the balance, better the world

Publishing Date : 12 March, 2019

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The 8th of March, (Yesterday) marked the annual International Women’s Day under the theme #BalanceforBetter. The commemoration of this day gives us an opportunity as a country to reflect and see how we are faring as a nation on issues of gender equality.

Botswana has mixed success or progress when it comes to gender balance. In the business sector, there has been significant progress on number of women taking up managerial roles in organisations while politically, Botswana is faring badly in that respect. A survey conducted by Grant Thornton International and published in the annual Women in Business report, indicated in 2018 that there has been steady progress over the last four years as more businesses have women in senior leadership  roles.

The report indicated that of Botswana businesses survey had women in senior management roles (more than doubling from 16 percent in 2015 to 33 percent in 2018), higher than the global average and African average of 30 percent. This week’s appointment of Keabetswe Pheko-Mogashane as the first female Managing Director of Barclays Botswana should be a cherry on top.The report also 68 percent of Botswana businesses surveyed would like Government to do more to address the issue of gender inequality in business leadership at a legislative level.

In 2017, according to the The Global Gender Gap Index rank Botswana 122nd out of 144 countries, owing to its overly male dominated parliament. Botswana currently has only five female MPs in a 63 seat parliament. The imminent departure of two female MPs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Botlogile Tshireletso is likely to see Botswana regressing further in the ranking, with the duo having announced their retirement. However, Venson-Moitoi has since announced his presidential bid, where he will challenged President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the party leadership positon next month.

The Global Gender Gap Index is a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.

In Africa, Rwanda remains among the best in political empowerment sub index as the country with one of the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, with 61 percent of representatives in its legislature being female. In the past there were efforts to increase representation of women in parliament through the special election nomination dispensation. In the 9th parliament Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats will be reserved for women.

The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Botsalo Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament. Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters are not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.

Since 1965, there have been 46 Specially Elected MPs appointments, of these appointments only 14 were females while 32 were male. Change of electoral system has been a subject of debate in Botswana’s political area, with Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) having instigated the debate.

Even though Botswana fares badly in the category of women political empowerment, it pulled impressive results in the category of educational attainment with 1st position ranking. In this category the report captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education.

The report further looks at a longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers captured through the ratio of the female literacy rate to the male literacy rate. The report indicates that the number of female children visa-vis male children in Botswana at primary and secondary level is almost equal, while at tertiary level more female students are enrolled as compared to their male counter parts.

A Human Resource Development  Council (HRDC)  report authenticated by Statistics Botswana indicated that the number of female students have surpassed their male counterparts at all levels, with 57.9 percent of students in tertiary institutions in 2016 being female.  While we have had success in other areas, we should address the disparity that exist in our polity. We need a conversation on whether we should have a gender friendly electoral system such as proportional representation or a hybrid which has both element of proportional representation and First-Past-The-Post. Surely we need reforms that catapult more women in policy decision making positions.



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