The Dark side of skin cosmetics
A light complexion and smooth skin is the archetype of beauty in Botswana. This appearance is widely considered attractive and a lot of people, particularly women desire to attain it. To give the masses what they want and pocket huge profits while doing so cosmetic companies have developed a wide range of products all promising the much sought after wrinkle free light skin. They have lotions designed to remove dark spots, exfoliating creams and even complexion lightening soaps. Most of these products are indeed legitimate; they do give the results they promise to deliver. However they do not come with a warning of the dangers they might bring.
The common active ingredient in anti-ageing and skin lightening cosmetics is a class of compounds called alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s). These work by peeling of the top layer of dead skin cells and exposing the lighter, smoother skin beneath. The danger in this is that the top layer of skin, with the dead skin cells is a very effective barrier to UV radiation. With the top layer gone the skin becomes susceptible to the effects caused by UV radiation which include premature ageing and skin darkening. This creates a vicious cycle of the consumer using more of the product to retain their smooth light skin and yet they are continuously exposing themselves to more skin damage and accelerating the appearance of ageing.
There is no local research which has been done on the effects of alpha hydroxy acids, but research done in America indicates that continuous use of alpha hydroxy acids without adequate sun protection can put an individual at risk of developing cancer. With manufacturers "putting more and more active ingredients in products, such as AHAs, they should be warning the public that there may be side effects such as sun sensitivity," said Dr. Elisabeth Shim, an American skin cancer specialist. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have had regulations for labelling cosmetics containing alpha hydroxy acids since 2005. These regulations have largely been ignored by cosmetic companies. Products containing AHA’s still do not have warnings.
For Botswana, a country which receives as much sunlight as it does, the risk might be even greater. In the years to come many once beautiful women might lie in hospital beds, suffering the effects of cancer. Perhaps the consequences may be milder, and the worst is that forty year old women will be mistaken for grandmothers. There is no way of telling what the future holds, what is certain is that alpha hydroxy acids are a risk. Individuals should be made aware of the risks they expose themselves to when they use products containing them.
In an effort to alleviate the harm done by the sun on skin, a local youth led start-up called SCI-TECH is developing a lotion with sun protection properties. Among other components the lotion incorporates zinc oxide, a compound which absorbs UV radiation and is used in commercial sunscreens on the market. The idea is to provide a product suited to the needs and circumstances of Batswana. The reality is that the sun shines brightly on Botswana. Cosmetics should protect and not expose the skin of the people to the harmful rays of the sun.
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Lesbian women speak out
In 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled against criminalization of same-sex relationships in Botswana. The court’s decision to uphold this ruling was based on arguments that criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional.
The bench of five judges unanimously ruled that this was a violation of rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality. However, it has emerged that ending violence against homosexuals, in particular, lesbian women, is far from over.
Lesbian women in Botswana are still subjected to all forms of abuse, violence and discrimination. They are sexually molested, raped, emotionally abused, harassed and constantly reminded that they are still “women” even if they can act like men.
These women endure violence from those that are close to them, be it family, schoolmates, workmates and the general public even. This was revealed this week in Gaborone at the commemoration of an International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBT) 2023.
The commemoration was held under the theme “Together always: united in diversity,” and it was organized by Success Capital in collaboration with European Union, SADC and UNAIDS. IDAHOBT 2023 was organized to show solidarity and join forces in the journey towards a meaningful, equitable, healthy and gender-just-Botswana.
Agreeing to speak to this publication on anonymity, a 20-year-old lesbian woman from Thamaga said she is a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and still in closet (her sexual orientation is unknown), but has suffered violence nonetheless.
“Homosexuals in Botswana are discriminated of their identity. We also face rejection daily in which we are excluded from interacting with other people. Their parents still think our identity is contagious and that it can be used to manipulate their children. This is something that I endured growing up.”
When quizzed on how her parents will react should she go public about her gender identity, the source said as for the mother, she would react positively. She has since opened up to her sister about her sexual orientation.
“My mother is a nice person generally. She won’t react in a way that will disappoint me but she will have to accept how I am because, technically, there is nothing she can do about it.”
Another lesbian woman, who identifies as Teddy, said she grew up in a setting full of male persons, something that led to her adopting male tendencies. She would dress like a boy, something that she felt comfortable doing.
“My mother has always known about this issue. My relatives gave me a hard time though. I realized that I am lesbian from a young age even though I didn’t understand why I was like that. I will jokingly dismiss a boy who would want to date me, referring to them as a brother.”
Teddy underlined that the community she grew up in did not tolerate her sexual orientation. “They will call me setabane and this is something that has lived in us. At church, I was forced to wear dresses or skirts, but I couldn’t.”
A lesbian woman who preferred being anonymous said at some point being a lesbian affected her mental health, as she couldn’t handle the pressure that came with it. She has since opened up to her parents about her sexual identity.
Meanwhile, when quizzed to speak on LGBTIQ+ rights in Botswana, High Commissioner and UK Special Representative to SADC Sian Price said there is a lot to be hopeful and positive about, adding that Botswana has an advantage of an active society that has respect for human rights.
“There are active support groups and respect of the rule of law, which made it possible for the country to be where it is now. This should make it possible for Botswana to go further. So, I am optimistic but I also think that there is need for all to have a greater ambition because there is so much more that could be done to promote LGBTIQ+ rights on Botswana. We also need to work together and advance those ends.”
In a statement, European Union (EU) says it is unacceptable that human rights continue to be violated and abused on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity.
The EU has called on all 67 state jurisdictions worldwide that still criminalize homosexuality, 11 of which impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex relationships, to immediately end this ‘discriminatory practice.”
“We are committed to working with all our partners to counter laws, policies and practices that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity and tom eliminate all forms of violence.”
Author explains two award winning books
Just two weeks ago, the inaugural Botswana Literature Awards put on the spotlight the country’s top authors, celebrating and recognizing the contribution and hard work these book worms put on paper. These are individuals dedicated to improve literature landscape in Botswana.
Amongst the winners was Cole Motlogelwa, a Motswapong tribesman from Ratholo, who has published two award winning books: The English Man is Gone and The Cabal, which were published in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Motlogelwa is a product of his environment. The toils, curiosities, trials and tribulations, accomplishments and hopes of his people are his source of inspiration to write. He says he uses writing to interpret and attempt to express all of these experiences he consumes from his surroundings. Writing for him is a tool for change, a voice that cracks the hollowness and mystery of the night.
When speaking in an interview this week, Motlogelwa said his first literature award was the AfriCAN Author award in 2020, where he was honored for his first book.
“The second one was an award I got from the Inaugural Botswana Literature Awards 2022/23. The Cabal was judged to be the Best English Novel in Botswana at the said awards.”
He stressed that a great writer is not so much an excellent command of the language of the book, but about whether one is willing to cut the piece of them and share it with the readers.
“Simply put, characters are just fictitious and devoid of form, until we breath life into them by projecting our emotions into them. We give them emotions that we understand. We give them scare we have. We clothe them with smiles we know we have. We can’t give them what we don’t possess. So, a good writer I sone who is willing and able to effectively express themselves through their characters.”
When shedding more light on his two award winning books, Motlogelwa said The Cabal (2021) is 221 pages futuristic political thrilling satire set in Botswana.
It follows a journey of Detective Moathodi on his quest to find the killer of the Permanent Secretary to the President of Botswana in the year 2029. His investigations were not warmly welcomed by the Gaborone North police department and the Apex Intelligence Unit.
His investigations together with the Vice President, Advocate Tholo, will lead to a dangerous web of deceit that exposes the unimaginable games, tricks and schemes in every political circle that continues to keep the innocent citizens in the dark about the monopoly that takes place behind closed doors at their expense.
“In this book, I went deep into the history of Botswana and I open the mind of the reader to the surrounding possibilities, as well as educate both readers with legal background and those who don’t with rich history that perhaps have many uncertain loopholes.”
The book also shows the length at which politicians would go to achieve political ambitions and the network of holy and unholy players in the game.
In summary, The Cabal is a magnetic and captivating story of political ideologies, games, endless and ugly gap between the have’s and the have not’s kidnapping and passion for change.
The English Man is Gone (2019) is a radical expose on the after-effect of colonization of Botswana. The book describes the author’s post colonization ‘utopia’ and delves deep into “our continued attachment to the western powerhouses. It screams change, and is solution-based wake-up call to the people of Botswana.
This is a book that was written for the youth and future of Botswana in mind by the author. Its six chapters provide in-depth opinion and understanding of the author on critical issues of colonialism, existing government practices from time immemorial couched in sophisticated language, the Constitution of Botswana, discriminatory practices amongst the people of Botswana, foreign policy and the economy of the country.
However, though he is a multi-award-winning author, he has a fair share of challenges. As authors in Botswana, Motlogelwa stressed that they lack accessible and sustainable literature development initiatives, saying “and books are still subject to imposition of tax. This is quite concerning because we are trying to build a knowledge-based economy.
“There is no domestic literature market protection, and local authors are forced to compete against influx of foreign materials. Even in pursuit of market liberalization, sight should not be lost that we need protection because our literature market is infant. We need community libraries that can buy and deal with our books.”
“Otherwise, publishing is an expensive process and many of us have financial challenges, so that goes without saying.”
Local music earns a spot on Mzansi’s Channel O
In its quest to empower the local creative industry, MultiChoice Botswana is once again cooking something for local music producers and artists. For so many years now, creative minds in Botswana have been struggling to promote their talent as there are no platforms to help in that context.
Without doubt, Botswana has many talented entertainment industry players. They are artists, music producers, actors, storytellers and fashion industry players. With more emphasis on the music industry, there are no significant platforms to come to their rescue.
The available platforms are not enough to export talent. In worst scenarios, the platforms do not offer monetary incentives, so they become less beneficial to artists. On lucky days, artists are engaged and paid monies to at least keep them alive for a minute.
In discovering these dares, MultiChoice Botswana says it has come to artist’s rescue, providing a brand-new music video countdown show featuring homegrown Botswana music videos.
When shedding more light on the new offering, MultiChoice Botswana Corporate Affairs Manager, Thembile Legwaila said the call-for-submission, launched this week, will run for a duration of ten weeks, with qualifying videos being part of Channel O’s newest music show, aptly titled Bots Top 5.
“With this being a fresh new music video countdown show celebrating local artists and their works, we want to ensure that the music videos airing on the show are fully representative of the talent available in Botswana. We have made the submission process as simple and as transparent as possible with the hopes that this will also unearth the undiscovered musical gems we have in our country,” she said.
With Channel O being available across all MultiChoice Africa markets, Legwaila said African exposure to local talent is a given with the new music video countdown show launching on 24th May 2023.
“Each week, the locally produced music video entertainment show will see its host introducing viewers to five of Botswana’s hottest music videos. The show will also feature interviews with artists behind the videos, everyday Batswana sharing their thoughts on the local creative industry and many different small business and landmarks of Botswana to intrigue and entice viewers.”
When expanding more on the show, Legwaila said Bots Top 5 is an incredibly exciting addition of content to the already booming content on DStv. MultiChoice Botswana Managing Director, Stephanie Pillay, said “More specifically because it speaks to our local content strategy and our screens. We are looking forward to the rest of Africa knowing what we already know, and that is that Botswana’s local creative industry may be still growing but it is definitely full of endless potential.”
When queried to share his option on this development, the country’s most celebrated artist, Han C, said this is a great opportunity that the creative industry has been waiting eagerly for. Han C says he has music already playing on Channel O.
“Most of our artists in Botswana do not have platforms to showcase their talent. I must applaud MultiChoice Botswana for finally providing light at the end of the tunnel. My fellow colleagues now have where to deposit their talent. This means more exposure for Botswana music and I content.”
For his part, award winning music producer, Fella, said this is a great development as it ensures ease of submission “so that everyone has a fair chance to get their visuals played because a lot of local artists did not have much easier and simple way to submit videos on the platform.”
He said this however, means upping standards and quality for “our music visuals taking them more serious than ever before. Channel O is a big, inter regional platform that for sure ensures quality control and values quality content,” Fella said in a quick interview.
Nonetheless, he expressed worry, questioning the length that the new project will take. “My only issue is how many times we would see this happening. My wish is to see this happen every month if indeed it is intended for locals.”