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Don’t antagonize the unemployed!

Dear Mma Majelantle,

Before 17,7%   lie becomes the truth, please take a moment to realize the office that you represent and that I, among the masses of the unemployed who will hold you accountable.

Hypothetically speaking, does it mean that this trend will be observed every year, say it becomes 14% in 2018, then 11%  in 2019, wow, that will be a stretch! As to what informs this trend is the Mmamashia ghost mystery we will never know. My concern is; if we fail to acknowledge the fact that Ipelegeng has no place in the just released statistics; then we have a serious problem.  We cannot allow for your statistical perceptions to become part of our reality. It is wrong to entertain “alternative facts” here. Alternative reality can be dangerous in the long run, especially if the hypocritical lie is pervasively preached in place of the real truth. You could be treading on thin ice here when your professional integrity can be questioned by the public.

I guess you wouldn’t understand when a woman queuing after you at the shop counter is holding minced bones for dogs under the guise that she is going to feed her dogs. I also assume that it’s been a while since you had “menoto” as part of your radish, right?. Well, ma’am, for us, it’s part of our daily reality As a graduate, and a son of a domestic housekeeper, I believe I’m in my rightful place to speak my heart. Sadly her dream to see her seemingly educated” children live fulfilling lives is still a farfetched given that we hardly have enough to buy groceries at the end of the month. The scenario of waking up next to your younger siblings holding a degrees is a common reality these days.

The government programs which we were asked to enroll for have not got us anywhere, be it internship, tirelo sechaba. The worst thing is that we have not had an honest talk over these issues with the key stakeholders because of fear being reprimanded. We are mostly sanctioned over what we should say and how we should say it, and that is the problem. Most Batswana have been witness to the roll out of ESP, diamond story/diamond beneficiation schemes which are no longer part of everyone’s conversations these days. Are we ever going hold ourselves to be a countable for the national projects that have been mismanaged in the past? Which leads to believe that the rich will keep getting richer while the poor will keep on poorer.

I am so gravely disappointed in the way you continuously turn a blind eye to the reality of the unemployed youth, and now you have conjured up some glossy figures to make it look as if Botswana is performing above par. As to why you have concocted those figures, I may never know. Sadly, I do qualify within the morphed 17,7%   category. If this figure reflected the atmosphere in Botswana, maybe it would have been worth it parade it to your employer or the international arena. However, I’m very skeptical as the figure stands. Figures aside, mma, let me tell you, the experiences of most young people, especially graduates. We have to bust tables in restaurants and retail shops, endure long hours only to get paltry pay at the end of the month end.

The fancy degrees can’t do much because they can only go as far as getting the trappings of what the employer can give. Most economists will tell you that the current minimum wage in which we are supposed to get by is unsustainable like Ipelegeng. This is in consideration of the rent, utilities, and other monthly expenses one has to deal with on a monthly basis.   It’s was not by choice that we settled for such low paying jobs. This is the grim reality among the youth that I interact with at the department of Labour hoping for a “messiah” to rescue them from the desperate hunger just to give them a P50 piece job. Guess what, these people are not stupid as your office may want to imply, they are university graduates. They converge at the Department of labour just to be hopeful, not that they are awaiting their dream job.

The one thing they already know thus far is that they have succumbed to the reality that the dream jobs are already occupied in these offices and there is no “deadwood employee” who will voluntarily make way for a university graduate. It’s a struggle just to go around asking people for jobs these days. By the way, have you ever observed the lawlessness that is brewing in the streets lately? You can only count yourself lucky if you don’t get mugged stepping outside your yard. Remember; this is a group of youth that is angry, hungry and frustrated, and it is proving difficult to control crime these days.

Now stepping away from that reality, here are my concerns about the statistics that you released on Tuesday. I may not understand the justification for qualifying Ipelegeng as some form of formal employment other than a temporary government relief program. Your office tried that last year, in which you concluded that the unemployment figure stood over 20%   and we dismissed you for a joke and now you want to go back and introduce Ipelegeng as part of the instruments in assessing the level of unemployment in Botswana. I am ashamed of myself for letting you get away with the ill-advised justification last year by including Ipelegeng as part of the formal employment, and now you have it reflected in the current statistics. This ill-informed survey cannot become a reality in the day and age.

We can’t let you get away this time. You among other academics may understand that Ipelegeng is unsustainable as one (if lucky) is employed for just a month on rotational basis. In densely populated areas, it can take you more than 6 months because all the Ipelegeng hopefuls are subjected to a raffle or “khupelekhupele” as they are called in kgotla, so one is guaranteed to secure their job only for that month. Trust me, I have been through the Ipelegeng system, and sometimes you can wait your luck for a year. The other issue is the social security benefits that come along as part of the temporary employment program. The last consultative gathering in April by ILO, hosted by Business Botswana indicated that Ipelegeng is ill advised, and this program was vehemently criticized by Dr Jeffries.

What they have also alluded to is the fact even the most employed Batswana do not have safety cushions after they retire because there is no pool of finance to provide this group with social security. Exceptions can be made for those working for bigger companies, but most SMEs would mostly tell you that business is not doing well, hence they cannot afford to make gratuity pay outs for their outgoing employees. So for a lot of the productive age groups, who are either employed as Ipelegeng beneficiaries or those holding piece jobs, it can be realized that most families rely on the breadwinners for their dear survival. In a family of 5, the eldest breadwinner can support both the parents and the siblings, leaving little for him or her at the end of the month, for contributing to their social security.

The last time, I checked, Ipelegeng beneficiaries, walk away with nothing. Which brings me to the one last question, since the program can only absorb less than 60 at a go for that month, how do you justify the mass that is not absorbed for employment that month, because I can assure you, they are many. I’m appalled by the lack of social conscious displayed by your office when the unemployment issue is sensitive for most youth graduates. It should be understood that unemployment is rife across the globe, so this is no talking point here, and this has nothing to do with the BDP government, nor the opposition. The reality is that unemployment is here to stay and we really need to address it, and the only way we can do that is by properly designing research frameworks, assigning relevant areas scope to which you make assessments as well as testing that hypothetical theories so that research case does not become questionable.

Mma Statistician, please get the basics right, no organization, such as International Labour Organisation (ILO), with the lose definition of “unemployed” can substitute for the reality on the ground. Let’s get define the issues for what they are, and then address them appropriately. Just to be fair, the skills mismatch has been some of the issues that can be brought to light by the Ministry of Education and the Human Resource Development Council, and I will be the first to admit that the education system needs a serious revamp.  As far as dusting off those figures to suit the government or those who will govern after 2019, I will implore you to release appropriate figures we can work with. The bottom line is that I’m not going anywhere, much less is my lack of employment.

I will be awaiting for you to tell us what influenced this significant drop especially that the mining industry took a nose dive in 2015/16 followed by massive retrenchments by other industries such as banks, utility companies, and mind you this has the same ripple effect on the small businesses and auxiliary industries. Even those that have been queuing up for the Gender Affairs fund these days hoping to get funded for their projects have had it tough as the department is still assessing the previous proposals. As the head of the office that has the power to influence policy and decision makers across government, private sector, please be candid, and as painstakingly uncomfortable as it is, let’s call out raw figures as they are and  announce them for what they represent.

Mothusi is a concerned unemployed youth

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Opinions

Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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Opinions

The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Opinions

Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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