Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations’ (BOCONGO) Executive Director, Bagaisi Mabilo this week quit her plum post at the organisation.
The decision to dump BOCONGO comes in the wake of a board proposal of a transformation to change the organisation’s name, constitution, mission, and mission as well as objective statements of the organisation.
It is understood that some organisation members and staff are against the transformation as they believe they were not satisfactorily consulted while on the other hand the board chairman, Oscar Motsumi, insists that they were consulted from inception of the proposed concept.
This has led to an almost irreparable relationship between the current board and the Secretariat as well as some member organisations of BOCONGO. Amid the mayhem Mabilo was suspended a fortnight ago for extending contracts of staff members against the board’s will and resolution.
WeekendPost has established that Mabilo’s current contract was to expire on the 31st March 2017 but she opted to leave before then due to the turmoil currently engulfing the umbrella organisation.
Initially she had desired to complete her contract having executed the 2015/16 financial audit and having prepared for the October 27th 2016 scheduled Annual General Meeting (AGM).
“Sadly with the recent turn of events, I have to make a painful but necessary decision to tender my resignation prior to the end of my contract,” Mabilo said in her resignation letter this week.
According to Mabilo, this will also protect her professional integrity and allow for any investigations to be carried out, and at the same token she stressed that she will always avail herself should there be anything she needs to answer.
In earnest, the outgoing Executive Director, pointed out that what motivates her resignation emanates from the July 2015 letter, which she wrote to the board stating concerns relating to the “abuse of authority by the board Chairman”.
She highlighted that there was harassment, interference in management matters which has never been addressed resulting in escalation of matters and deterioration of the working relationship.
“I have repeatedly been set up to fail in executing my mandate as the Executive Director, first by forcing me to dismiss staff, and assigning me tasks I cannot singlehandedly manage, and deliberately not given sufficient time to implement my mandate and report to the board as I should quarterly. These issues were discussed at length in my submission at the April 29th 2016 board meeting,” Mabilo asserted in her resignation letter.
She alluded to that fact that although there was a BOCONGO Governance Manual which is a policy of the organisation since 2013, and while the current board was orientated on it in 2014, and subsequently in 2016 for new members, they have disregarded it.
“The board has not complied with its policies in particular, with regards to matters of the making decisions as a collective board, restricting itself to governance functions. Prioritisation of some board member functions have not risen above management and operational directives, a serious hindrance and breach to the governance organisational development achieved over the years I have worked with BOCONGO.”
This, she said has resulted in deteriorating staff morale, violation of employee rights and poor governance of the organisation.
She further explained that she “felt victimised and threatened by the Board Chairman Mr. Motsumi, after having provided details for his lack of full declaration of conflict of interest in a matter where the chairman wanted to use his influence in a tender committee to appoint a preferred acquaintance whom he had instructed me to work with at tender conceptualisation.”
According to Mabilo, the tender committee and the board has been provided with information on the issue and this resulted in a meeting amongst the tender committee members where she learnt that the tender was immediately cancelled.
Immediately after alerting the board of the issue, she continued to point out that she then received a threatening mail from the chairman, who then organised a closed door board session whose quorum was questionable, and eventually a suspension and disciplinary hearing.
“My concern has always been that every time these closed sessions convene, there is no documentation of the legality of that meeting to make decisions that are binding to the organisation especially that issues of quorum and full participation of board members is always minimal and in most cases never form a quorum. Such actions continue to perpetuate non conducive and hostile conditions of service for me where decisions change willy-nilly.”
She said a methodical pursuit to dismiss her through a process that defeats and obstruct natural justice was deployed through the leadership of the board chairman and participation of the board. She mentioned that she had to endure a lack of procedural, unfair and intimidating disciplinary hearing where a lawyer instead of a labour practitioner services were procured on a labour matter.
“In my opinion this process is flawed as it is not clear what the terms of reference for the lawyers were, as I was never furnished with these, and the outcome of the hearing evidently did not consider evidence that I had provided and was biased to favour the chairperson.”
Mabilo also stated that she believes the desire to implement the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) seminar had ulterior moves, and therefore she unknowingly became a hindrance to achieving plans of “some comradeship members of the board” as they refer to themselves, who would stand to benefit from the seminar.
During the disciplinary hearing, Mabilo was charged with failure to organise the seminar despite the board having instructed her to do so.
With all the developments, she explained that “at the end of the day this is done at the expense of membership who has not approved the actual strategy that is sought to be implemented, proposing significant organisational and structural changes, for example, constitution and membership and secretariat structure.”
“Therefore, I find myself caught up in between implementing board instruction that go against membership authorisation,” she highlighted.
According to Mabilo, the current relationship between her and the chairman as well as the board is “irreparable” and therefore she concluded that “I would like to serve a month notice and close out my contract with BOCONGO.”
BOCONGO Chairman, Oscar Motsumi, declined to comment on the matter and only stated that, “Like I have said before in your last instalment, the Employer/Employee issues are private and confidential and cannot be discussed with third parties.”
As the media industry comes full circle with sexual harassment policies in the workplace, media houses have been urged to ensure that this process cuts a wide swath so as to broaden the buy in.
Media organizations have begun to reassess and revise their sexual harassment policies as WIN continues to heighten a campaign against sexual harassment in the workplace. All the while a handful of organizations are either at drafting or implementation level of the policy.
To help media organizations crack down on sexual harassment, WAN-IFRA Women In News (WIN) held its 15th Round Table Meeting (Virtual) on 5th November, 2020 aimed at furthering sensitisation on the subject.
Media executives from Sub-Saharan Africa who attended the Roundtable meeting were motivated to climb on the bandwagon to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
A renowned expert in human resource concepts, Carin Anderson, shared on managing and preventing sexual harassment in news organisations. Anderson explored on essential tools that could assist organisations to navigate sexual harassment complaints effectively.
Anderson cautioned media executives against condoning a culture of Sexual Harassment. Linking sexual harassment to the current situation where COVID-19 has put many media houses in the red, Anderson cautioned it could negatively affect productivity.
She said staff could be forced to exit organisations, a development that will ultimately affect the financial performance of the business.
By hook or crook, organisations need to draft and implement comprehensive sexual harassment policies that are comprehensible to staff. According to Anderson, media executives must ensure of policies that have a prevention and cure approach while at the same time avoiding reactionary approaches.
She is of the view that a thorough sexual harassment policy could protect brands, would-be victims and the organisation untainted culture.
While the debate on sexual harassment has been dominated by fits and starts, of late progress has been by leaps and bounds. Anderson opined that conducting anonymous surveys continues to determine the culture of an organization hence helps create conducive working conditions for employees.
She observed that such surveys are very important because everyone is given a chance to air their views or concerns. In doing so, employees will feel comfortable and free to share their experiences.
Anderson further said anonymous surveys can also help to depict any unwanted behaviours in an organisation. Such surveys promote the culture of calling a spade a spade. She advised all media partners present at the meeting to create a safe and clean environment for their employees than to wait for the symptoms of sexual harassment to manifest.
“Organisations need to implement the policy and create more awareness through training. In order to create more awareness organisations need to come up with code of conduct and set procedures that promote zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” she said.
WIN executive Director, Melane Walker denoted that sexual harassment happens everywhere; and it is very important to have an internal policy that deals with it. Having a written internal policy has helped WIN to significantly navigate sexual harassment quandary, she said.
All participants were encouraged to have a Sexual Harassment policy and to share it with everyone in the organisation.
The United Nation’s UNiTE campaign has marked the beginning of 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence which will end in December 10 2020, under the global theme, “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”
The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign), managed by UN Women — is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world.
The UN Women’s generation equality campaign emphasises the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
Furthermore, the UN Secretary General’s report maintains that this year is like no other. Even before Covid-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions.
Globally, according to United Nations, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year.
Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.
Evidently they suggest that as countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified- in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold.
“In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abused, forced marriage, and harassment,” said the UN.
According to the UN, in April 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 member states responded with their strong statement of commitment.
“In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to Covid-19. Yet, much more is needed,” said the report.
Moreover, they submit that as today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action.
“It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis,” contended the UN report.
For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit.
According to Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, there is urgent need to end pandemic of femicide and violence against women.
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she emphasizes that as the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against womenis taking the livesof women and girls everywhere.
Therefore, she is calling on all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.
These bodies should be mandated to 1) collect comparable and disaggregated data on femicide or gender-related killings of women; 2) conduct an analysis of femicide cases to determine shortcomings, and recommend measures for the prevention of such cases, and 3) ensure that femicide victims are not forgotten by holding days of remembrance.
“Data this mandate has collected since 2015 through my Femicide Watch initiative corroborates the data available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and indicates that among the victims of all intentional killings involving intimate partners, more than 80% of victims are women. Many of these femicides are preventable. Since 2015, a growing number of States have either established femicide watches or observatories, and in an increasing number of countries, it is the independent human rights institutions, civil society organizations, women’s groups and/or academic institutions that have established femicide watches or observatories,” she argued.
GBV in Botswana
UNFDP (United Nations Population Fund) Botswana cites that, locally over 67 percent of women have experienced abuse, which is over double the global average.
“Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence and normalization. Victims of violence, the majority of which are women and girls, can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death,” indicated UNFDP
In his 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered on Monday 9th November at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), President Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the snowballing of GBV incidences, saying, they have prioritized drafting of a Sexual Offenders Bill to be tabled during the sitting of the 12th Parliament.
“The Bill will establish a Sex Offenders’ Registry to record and publicise names and particulars of all persons convicted of sexual offences. To date twelve districts have set up the District Gender Committees in Chobe, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Kgalagadi, Maun, Serowe, Selibe-Phikwe, North East, Bobirwa Sub District, Mabutsane Sub District, Goodhope Sub District as well as Mahalapye Sub District. These committees will promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and also address gender based violence,” Masisi said.
The President highlighted that the Botswana Police Service, which has been dealing a lot with GBV cases has taken swift action and introduced a Toll-Free number for reports on gender based violence. He further indicated that the Police will establish a Gender and Child Protection Unit
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.