We always make decisions as individuals or as a nation. The question is, do we ever stop to think whether our decisions conform to our ethical or moral values. It is imperative in my view that whatever we do or decide to do must be based on the fact that it is the right thing to do. We should not do things just because we have the right to do or have the power to do it so.
Before we discuss whether it is important to make sure that whatever we decide on should always reflect our ethical values. Let us start by examining what we understand by ethics.
A good friend of mine and a former colleague at Kgolagano College Dr. Vincent Dippenaar once said “ethicists are endangered species”. He was giving a public lecture on current moral issues facing Botswana. According to Dippenaar, ethics is about the truth and many people prefer lies than the truth. What this mean is that sometimes people know the right thing to do and in most cases do the wrong thing.
Ethics from Christian perspective is the study of how human ought to live as informed by the Bible and Christian conviction. However, ethics is a broader concept. The English word ethic comes from the Greek word ethica, which comes from ethos meaning what relates to character.
The ancient Greek ethicist Aristotle suggested that ethica is derived directly from ethos which means custom or habit. In more general sense, ethics is often viewed as one major branch of broader discipline of philosophy. In that case ethics is regularly defined as moral philosophy. The origin of the term moral is the Latin mos (adjective moalis) which is like Greek contemporary meaning custom or usage
There is a thin line between ethics and morality or morals. Ethics is the study of the right and the good and morality is the practice or living out what one believes to be right and good. Morality involves the actual living out of one’s beliefs that such things as lying and murder are wrong, whereas ethics entails the study of why it is that these practices are immoral.
Wayne Meeks describes ethics as a reflective second-order activity and morality is referred as self-conscience. Although ethics and morality may not be completely synonymous, to set up too strict a distinction between the two, is probably arbitrary. The presences of the terms in the English language reflect the ethical Greek and Latin heritage of the English language.
It was the great Greek thinkers like Socrates in the fifth century B.C who perused the question of the good. They sought to determine what constitutes a good person. Since Socrates’ day generation of philosophers have reflected of morality, moral problems and moral arguments. Jack Glickman for example, describes moral philosophy as consideration of various kinds of questions that arrive in thinking about how one ought to live one’s life.
Glickman then explains, we want to know, for example, which actions are right and which are wrong. Which activities and goals are worthwhile and which are not; and which action and institutions are just and which are unjust. At the same time we especially want to find out how one can justify judgments about what is right, good, just or worthwhile and precisely what such judgment mean. We also want to know how all these various questions are interrelated.
Seen as the moral philosophy as the pursuit of question such as these, ethics is not an exclusively Christian endeavor. One does not need to be a Christian to engage in philosophical reflections on morality nor does this endeavor necessarily draw primarily from scriptures or the Christian tradition. Rather human reasons stand at the centre of philosophical, ethical enterprise.
Ethics as moral philosophy seek to develop a conception of the ethical life in which all humans could participate and to which all humans could have access through the use of human reason. And it is especially concerned to providing a rational justification for morality, perhaps in a somewhat scientific manner.
Ethicists divide ethics into three major dimensions namely empirical, normative and analytical. Empirical ethics or descriptive morals, involves the observation of moral decision making process with a goal of description or explanation of the phenomenal. Empirical ethicists studies how people actually make ethical decisions. Normative ethics, when we hear or use the word ethics, we more likely have the normative ethics in mind.
Normative comes from the word norm, which in this context means standard or principle. So normative ethics is connected with the formulation of standards or principle of living. It involves assertions as to what is or is not worth pursuing and what is or not to be done.
We engage in normative ethics whenever we form opinions or judgments about what is right, good or obligatory and whenever we offer reasons for such judgments we also enter the realm of normative ethics when we describe a person, things or acts or good or evil, admirable or despicable. In ethics such discussions are about theories of values.
Each day we make arguments of various types. Many of them fall under the context of normative ethics, for they reflect what we consider to be the norms or standards of moral obligation for, state what someone is morally obligated to do or be.
These maybe quite particular, referring to a specific in a specific situation. There is a saying that honesty is the best policy meaning that people are morally obligated to tell the truth. Unlike judgments of moral obligation, judgments of moral values do not declare….what someone ought to do or be, rather they express what we value.
The third aspect of the ethical discipline is analytical ethics. Analytical derives from analyze which means to take things apart, to look at the constituent pieces of something. Therefore analytical ethics take ethics apart. It explores the nature of morality itself. It attempts to build a theory as to what value judgment mean and how they can be justified.
Analytical ethicists pursue the question of definition. What is good and ought to mean? What are we asserting when we say a person is free or responsible? What does it mean to say something is good? On what basis can one say judgment is good or true? But they also seek to determine how such ethical judgment can be established or justified. They raise the question, what form the foundation for making value judgments? For example on what basis can one say that the relocation of Basarwa from CKGR was morally wrong?
One person who did not merely talk about boundary situation, but actually focused on ethical quandary was Socrates. According to Plato, Socrates’ student Crito and friend advised him while Socrates was on death row that there was plan to rescue him from prison. Socrates refused to escape from prison neither did he allow his enemy to kill him; instead he decided to take his own life.
Decision making is not a simple process; it needs among other things intelligence, determination and bravery. You don’t wake up in the morning and decide about your future or the future of the organization or the people you lead. Human beings are social animals, whatever you think is personal and making decision for yourself will somehow somewhere affect others in one way or another.
Those we elect to represent us in different institutions and organizations should know that the decisions they make should always reflect the ethical values of the organization or institution they lead. But some of them, the moment they have been elected into those positions they forget completely about those who voted them into power.
Sometimes when you listen to some members of parliament and councilors tabling motions, or debating issues, you are forced to ask yourself the central question, are these people in the council chambers or parliament by mistake. Some will oppose something even if it is going to benefit his or her….constituency just because it is from the opposition or vice versa. If an idiot says, let’s run the rain is coming and you just stay because it is the idiot, who says the rain coming first, then it is you who is an idiot and the idiot becomes a clever person. If the BDP come up with some programs which are helping people encourage people to use those programs to better their lives.
And if the opposition comes up with motions which might help the people, my expectation is that BDP MPs should support those motions. When MPs are in parliament they should work as a team to serve Batswana. This does not mean opposition MPs should always support BDP otherwise there will be no opposition.
The same can be said about the BDP MPs. They cannot be expected to support everything from the opposition, but there are times when what is proposed either side is in the interest of the nation. Those who are elected to represent their constituencies in parliament and they miss the parliament sessions and at the end of the month they get their salaries, ethically speaking they are thieves.
They have stolen from the nation because they were given money which they did not deserve. They are worse than those who accepted housing allowances by mistakes while staying in government houses. When we take ethics to its logical conclusion, we can see that while we make noise everyday about moral crisis facing the youth, the real moral crisis is the one faced by the elders. When 95% of the wealth of the country is owned by 2% of the population of this country, then we have a serious moral crisis.
Immorality is more than just who is sleeping with whom, where and how or (matanyola). Some of the so called ills of the society are in fact they are symptoms of the real diseases of the society. In ethics we say social ethics produce individual ethics, not the other way round. How do you expect a young poor boy to refuse matanyola when matonyola can bring food on the table.
That is why Thomas Sankara used to say there are different kinds of prostitutions and prostitutes. The difference according to Thomas Sankara is on time and amount involved. There are those who stand in the streets and get $10 for thirty minutes and some for $20 for an hour. Some $50 for a night and others $100 for a week or month. Some marry for a year or two and then they divorce after getting what they wanted. In Sankara’s view, they are all prostitutes.
The difference is time and amount. My former German Pastor, Peter Ohligschlager, used to say almost the same about thieves. According to Pastor Peter Ohligschlager, there are those small thieves who pick pocket, those who break into houses, and those who make laws in their favor in order to enrich themselves from public wealth. Ethically according to Ohligschlager they have taken what they don’t deserve.
What I am stating here are ethical issues. And according to Socrates, ethical questions must be settled by reason alone. And secondly ethical questions are answered according to the standards of the person involved, not in consideration of what others think.
And third according Socrates, the outcome of an act is irrelevant the only consideration is whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. In this declaration Socrates delineated what has become a fundamental watershed in ethics, the differentiation between the deontological and theological (or consequentialist) approaches to ethical decision making.
He set forth he divide between those who declare that the right should be done for its own sake and those who base moral duty on some goal to be thereby attained. It is imperative in my view that when we make decision we ask ourselves whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. And more importantly, when we say so and so, it’s immoral, we ought to look at the standard of the person we are talking about.
As I said, above most of the time we blame the youth of immorality. If we compare the standard of the youth to that of some elders who are engaged in immoral activities under the cover of law or legality, ethically speaking what is intrinsically wrong is wrong regardless of what the law says. Remember Socrates was sentenced to death by court of law but he did nothing wrong. His “crime” was to teach the youth about the truth and their right. Let us make decision which one is comparable to our standards as leaders and also which are intrinsically right.
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.
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
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