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Dear African Child (i); a time for introspection.

‘Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it’ -Frantz Fanon.

The month of June is no ordinary month for Youth advocates, Africans, historians and nation builders the world over. June is an extra ordinary month. It is a land-mark month in Youth development. It is a month the Youth narrative was revolutionized and repositioned; it is a month the value and significance of young Africans was witnessed and treasured for life. It is a month thousands of African children autonomously, fearlessly and selflessly took it upon themselves to shape the direction of their country in the right path. 

It is a month young Africans unequivocally believed, ‘enough is enough our lives are at stake; we have a huge duty ahead of us for ourselves, our country and future generations’.  Like the internationally acclaimed statesman, Nelson Mandela (mhsrip), these young Africans had cherished an ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal they were determined to live for and to achieve and if needs be, it is an ideal for which they were prepared to die.

I suspect like Solomon Mahlangu -a distinguished anti-apartheid activist, they were convinced their blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of better and progressive educational reforms throughout the world.  I assume it is now obvious I’m refereeing to June of 1976, the month of the historic Soweto Youth Uprising of June-16-1976. History tells us June 16 is the cold winter mornining multitudes of young people across South Africa collectively, selflessly and fearlessly decided to take it upon themselves to stand against authoritarian reforms governing the education system and country at that time.

They stood for among others a non- Afrikaans dominated education curriculum (which would disadvantage students and teachers that are not of Africans origin). This sparked a series of peaceful demonstrations and rallies across the country; foremost impact was felt at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. It is reported that over 20 000 young people assembled at Orlando stadium, unfortunately their peaceful gathering was confronted by over fifty heavily armed police officers.

The armed officers are said to have been acting on a “shot to kill” directive for the sake of restoring “law and order”. This confrontation resulted in public killing of many precious African souls (including 12 year old year old Hector Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu), thousands more sustained major and minor injuries. The protest escalated by the day in all regions of the country. Parents joined in solidarity with the young generation. The courage of these young heroes and heroines is widely viewed as the turning/pivot point of what would have been a dark nation and continent to a somewhat bright democratic and progressive nation and continent with endless opportunities for all. The aftermath of this historic day includes; a significant massive uprising of local and international solidarity movements as an immediate consequence, the pressure was sustained and consequently gave birth to peace, freedom and democracy  enjoyed by all today.

Nonetheless the purpose of this series is not to recite the 1976 events; I believe lot of that will be done various stakeholders during the buildup and commemoration(s) of the ‘Day of the African Child’. The sole intention of this series (Dear African Child) is to engage and feasibly challenge today’s young Africans, Youth movements and nation builders. It is now 40 years down the line.  The big questions are; is our generation reflective of the fearless, selfless and courageous ‘African Child’ celebrated worldwide each year on the 16th of June? Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s brighter inclusive future?  Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their benefit in the future? Will they have any reason to commemorate our ‘Once Upon a Time’ existence in this continent? Will they have unambiguous bright pride and joy, as they associate with the internationally acclaimed title ‘African child’, like we do today? Will they inherit a better continent free from challenges our generation found, battled and conquered? Or we will hand over an unbearable continent filled with challenges inherited from our passive and submissive generation? The world’s greatest and most successful nation builders all subscribed to the notion that the world we live in is not our inheritance from our past generations; it is in actual fact borrowed to us by future generations and they (future generations) look forward to taking it back when the time ripe.

Therefore the fundamental question we should be asking ourselves and striving to answer throughout our youth age is, what type of world would we like to hand over to the young ones when their time comes? Likewise, this author strongly trusts that we are in this continent today in trusted by future generations to pave a way for them before their arrival. Therefore our test and glory as a generation fundamentally rests on the progress we make in transforming our nations and continent into sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and progressive terrains.  Terrains were: -the progress and prosperity of our people is not determined by their gender, last name, settlement, alliance, proximity to power etc.; -the larger share of the national resources is not enjoyed by a few but shared among the entire nation;  -income inequalities will only belong to Economics theory books; -the girl child will be free and empowered to actualize and reach the highest level of the prosperity ladder without any form victimization, suppression and discrimination; -corruption, self-enrichment and tax heavens will only be tales from ‘Once Upon a Time’.  In recent times, President Muhammadu Buhari, probed "I came into this world with nothing and I will leave with nothing, why should I steal?". This is a key question Africa as a whole needs answer and extensively reflect on going forward.

This is simply because a significant mounting level of Africa’s sustainable future and prosperity rests in its prudent use of public resources, the principle of sustainable development best explains this dictum. In this regard it is clear our generation, just like the 1976 generation, is not immune to acute socio-economic development hurdles that need to be tackled head-on like the 1976 bantu-education. Africa’s current and foreseeable socioeconomic hurdles have been interrogate extensively and documented widely. One of the recent and most comprehensive is a book titled; “Africa’s Third Liberation: the new search for prosperity & Jobs” by Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst. In this offering the duet persuasively contend and empirical prove that Africa has experienced two key liberations so far; the first from colonial and racist regimes, and the second from the autocrats who often followed foreign rule.

The duet further argues that at this juncture African countries have the potential and responsibility to undertake a third liberation –from political economies characterized by graft, crony capitalism, rent seeking, elitism and social inequality. I’m yet to come across tested publishers or interest groups that fundamentally and empirically differ with the duet in their submission herein. The whole world agrees that Africa’s third revolution is invertible, even western influenced think-tanks are calling for this revolution.

The impeding universal SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are directly and indirectly speaking to the deliverables of the third revolution Africa is stimulated and expected to undertake. The interesting part is that Africa is currently considered a youthful continent; this is simply because majority of its population is considered youthful, about 60% of the African population is currently below the 35, the highest concentration of young people in the continent ever.

This reality is reflective of the ‘Youth Bulge Phenomenon’, it possess question and prospects of the ‘Youth Development Dividends’. In this regard it is safe to conclude that Africa is by and large a ‘Youthful Continent’. Consequently current African challenges largely affect Young Africans more than any other cohort in the continent. More importantly these challenges can and will only be eliminated through courageous and selfless consolidated efforts of young Africans, like the Young Africans of 1976.

Almost every development blueprint unequivocally speaks about the huge number of Youth in this continent and the huge potential of Youth in this continent.  Most notable and conceivably supreme among these documents is the landmark AYC (African Youth Charter) – ‘a framework which provides strategy and direction for youth empowerment and development activities at the continental, regional and national levels across Africa’ (Mack-Ikemenjima, 2011). In this author’s interrogation most blueprints draw their fundamental course and shape from the AYC.

At this juncture I would like to rest my pen and allow Young Africans to reflect on these questions once again: -Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? -Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s bright inclusive prospects?  -Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? -Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their future benefit?

Dear African Child (ii) will focus on the impending and inevitable Youth led higher education evolution.   

* 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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