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Co-operatives 101 (iv): An Olive Branch to Stakeholders (ii)

“…Drops in separation could only fade away, drops in co-operation made the ocean“ -Mahatma Gandhi

Dear reader, welcome to part ii (two) of part iv (four) of this series, Co-operative 101. This installment is an extension of part i (one) of part iv (four) -‘An Olive Branch to Stakeholders’. Part one started the journey of extending a Co-operative olive branch to current and potential Co-operative movement stakeholders. It spoke to the following stakeholders: Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC) –Youth Desk; Poverty Eradication Programme; Gender Affairs Department (GeAD) – Women Economic Empowerment Programme; Legislators and Policy Makers; and the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC).

It addressed these stakeholders distinctly and in some cases collectively. It fundamentally showed the relevance of the stakeholders in Co-operative development, as well as the relevance of the Co-operative movement in the respective stakeholder’s aims, objectives and mandate. Furthermore it called for swift and strategic partnership in advancement of identified common objectives. This installment continues the same spirit and purpose. It extends a Co-operative olive branch to other strategic partners, namely: Bot50; The Fourth Estate (media); Business Development Centers, Research Institutes and Think Tanks; VLIs (Village Level Institutions); Framers Associations; Funding Institutions and; Motswana ko lwapeng.    

1. Bot50;

Dear Bot50, we know it hasn’t been long since your established and you will probably not been in existence post the 50 years celebrations. We also acknowledge your existence this far has not been an easy one, actually it has been one the most difficult and consistently criticized establishments in our life time so far. ESP (Economic Stimulus Programme) and the Vision 2036 council had their fair share of tribulations and criticism but they are far from matching the Bot50 level. Nonetheless, some of us earnestly believe Bot50 is a noble establishment; its establishment was necessary and monumental.

Its mandate is essential especially in this spectacular year -as Botswana celebrate 50 years of independence and relative prosperity.  I assume Co-operative enthusiasts, like every other sector, wish Bot50 well in their mandate and associated obligations. It is equally important to acknowledge that a lot of work has already been done and probably at an advanced stage. However we would like to plead and remind you that Co-operatives have amazing stories to tell and prove regarding our country’s fifty years of independence. Furthermore; Co-operatives have a seemingly promising and inclusive future to offer Botswana and Batswana. A future centered on redressing shortfalls of the past fifty years whilst preserving and escalating our country’s gains this far. Based on this brief background it is evident a strategic partnership between Bot50 and the Co-operative movement is necessary and long overdue.

2. The Fourth Estate (Media);

The title ‘Fourth Estate’ is used herein to show the utmost respect to the media fraternity at large. The title best describes the media’s distinct and critical role as the fourth arm of government. From a Co-operative enthusiast standpoint, I would like express greatest appreciation for the support and coverage the ‘Fourth Estate’ has extended the Co-operative movement so far. Most of us learnt about the Co-operative movement and ideology through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most outreach programs and recruit of members to the Co-operative movement is largely through the ‘Fourth Estate’.

Similarly, most Co-operative enterprise goods and services reach their target market through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most of the critical Co-operative movement advocacy and lobbying efforts reach legislators and policy makers through the ‘Fourth Estate’. The existence, growth and prosperity of the Co-operative movement rely heavily on the ‘Fourth Estate’. It is in this regard that the efforts of the ‘Fourth Estate’ in advancing the growth and prosperity of the co-operative movement should be noticed encouraged and continued. Though the Co-operative movement media relation and partnership strategy seems undefined yet, it is necessary for the Co-operative movement to swiftly move towards a clearly defined media relations strategy to enable the ‘Fourth Estate’ to better and easily help the co-operative movement advance its noble purpose.

3. Research Institutes and Think Tanks;

One of the biggest challenges the local Co-operative movement, like many other sectors in country, face is the lack of timely, reliable and accurate local research or data generation. This has resulted in the movement’s advocacy relying heavily on generalized West Africa research findings and recommendations. Though the findings and recommendations are mostly relevant, easily generalized and applicable to our context, it is essential for us (Botswana) to start conducting our on research and drawing our own findings and recommendations.  These will help our advocacy and lobbying to be more relevant, precise and focused.

There is a generally heated debate on the relevance and significance of our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’. There is a school of thought arguing that our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’ have lost focus and becoming a waist of funds. I opt not to go into that debate in this installment. This installment is purely meant to link the Co-operative movement to our ‘Research Institutes’ and ‘Think-Tanks’. There is a lot of advocacy and lobbying the Co-operative movement has to undertake, in this advocacy and lobbying journey the movement will need backing and technical mentorship from these institutes. Furthermore Economic Development and Community Development research fellows in these institutes will also need viable research areas to advance and/or maintain their academic and professional relevance. With that said handshakes between the Co-operative movement, research institutes and think tanks is necessary and long overdue.

4. Village Level Institutions (VLIs);

Unfortunately, one of the erroneously undermined development institutions in our country are VLIs (Village Level Institutions). VLIs herein are deduced from the three main institutional structures in our society; -central, district and local.  VLIs fall under local structures. The most common VLI is the VDC (Village Development Committee) and DYCs (District Youth Councils). These are simply locality-based community institutions that have been established to legitimize/authorize participation by ordinary Batswana in the implementation of the country’s decentralized programming efforts. I would not like to get into the specifics of why VLIs such as VDCs and DYCs are not doing very well and what could be done to enable them to achieve much more. I would only like to encourage the leadership of VLIs to consider Co-operatives as one the most viable and relevant economic development models in their respective jurisdictions. Compared to central and district level structures, local level structures are best placed to advance Co-operative enterprises. Out of the possible local level development options, Co-operatives are one of the best avenues. This is simply based on their distinguished and inherent values such as; self-help, self-responsibility, democracy equality and concern for community.

5. Framers Associations;

History teaches us the Co-operative ideology was heavily centered on sustainable agricultural production. Even today the largest chunk of the combined international Co-operative movement revenue is generated by agriculture related Co-operatives. Furthermore agriculture plays a very critical role in Food and Nutrition Security of every country. In the same light, the whole world is concerned by acute contemporary challenges facing the food production sector at large. Some of these challenges include high and escalating costs of production, unfair competition against import products and frequent disease out breaks. Best practice case studies from neighboring countries shows that farmers there found refuge and solace in the Co-operative business model. These farmers joined hands to: -benefit from economies of scale, -speak and lobby in one voice, -support each other through the tribulations of the risky farming business and; -produce in unity to feed their nation; create jobs and; reduce the import bill. This is the direction every farmer and country wishes to take. This is the direction the co-operative movement wishes to take in unison with the farming community in our country.

6. Funding Institutions;

The journey to get funding institutions to consider funding Co-operatives has been a long and seemingly fruitless one. One of the key pillars of Botswana’s Co-operative Transformation Strategy focuses purely on the element of Co-operative funding/financing. It is in this regard that Co-operatives individually and the Co-operative movement as a block have been trying relentlessly to convince funding institutions to consider funding Co-operative enterprises. However, the good news is CEDA (Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency) has already come to the party and has opened its doors to well managed and viable deserving Co-operative establishments. Hopefully this development will motivate and encourage other funding institutions to open their doors to deserving and convincing Co-operatives. Funding institutions should note that deserving viable Co-operatives, like other sectors, have the interests of their sectors and the country at heart. They intended to stimulate necessary economic activity, generate income, create jobs and diversify our mineral based economy.   

7. Motswana ko lwapeng.   

Motswana ko lwapeg, kindly note that you have a huge role to play in the progress and prosperity of Co-operatives. Co-operatives thrive on membership; membership is a collective of individuals starting with you. It is therefore important for you to consider joining or establishing a Co-operative of your interest and aspirations. Secondly Co-operatives thrive on clients purchasing their products/goods and services. Simply put they rely on you taking a deliberate decision to support their goods and services before considering other competitors. Motswana ko lwapeg kindly remember that by supporting Co-operative enterprises you are; alleviating poverty, uniting people, reducing equalities and promoting social justice.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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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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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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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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