It's one of those things we'd like to pretend don't exist. We'd rather not talk about it because it exposes our hypocrisy and shows us the ugliness of our character we'd rather pretend doesn't exist. Unfortunate as that is, humanly speaking, I guess it's understandable. Every person thinks themselves perfect, despite knowing the opposite to be the case. It's human to feign goodness or uprightness.
Even the glaringly morally degenerate protest their innocence, claiming to be misunderstood. My subject matter this week has a long history. In fact, for those who are Bible readers and Bible believers, you'll realize that the subject at hand goes back to just a generation after the Garden of Eden. Yes, it's that old! I'm of course referring to envy and jealousy.
You see, the first instance of envy ever recorded was in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. That is the very first time we see the manifestation of this vice and its ugly consequences when left unchecked. Envy is found in almost every sphere of life. But it tends to read its ugly head particularly in the arena of possessions and wealth.
For instance look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac's accumulated wealth and how his neighbors – the Philistines – "envied him." Isaac's possessions are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff. This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren't poor by any means, but they still envied what Isaac had.
You can have a lot and still be jealous. To be fair, though, it's easy to want just a little bit more than we already have whether you're well off or have very little. I've seen established Pastors driving German sedans envious and intimidated by young upstarts still footing it or driving third-hand Japanese imports! Not only can we envy someone else's possessions, but also their power. In the Book of Numbers, we find that Miriam and Aaron were envious of Moses' power and position among the people so they began to criticize him along with his family (Numbers 12:1). We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Numbers 16:1).
In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read story after story of kings who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous acts; only to have the same things happen to them once they reached the pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war. I believe that – from a purely human motivation – jealousy and envy were the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and, later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1).
They feared that their own power was eroding. This is still true even today, sad to say. It is disconcerting and disheartening to see Pastors at each others' throats, covertly or overtly, simply because of envy. I'm not bashing Pastors. After all, I'm one of them and I have a very high regard and respect for them. However, the envy that exists amongst them is highly toxic and very destructive.
Out of envy, Pastors connive and conspire against each other daily. Some go out of their way to sabotage each other, frame each other, and plot against the downfall of one another. They gather with another Pastor as their main agenda. Dare I say, some fast and pray to see each other fall! How sad! How shameful! But why? I'll tell you why. It's nothing but the same thing politicians grapple with – Power. Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the political and business world.
Sadly, the Church is not exempt. Whose Church is biggest? Who's getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most members? Who has the best conferences? Who invites the best speakers? Who drives the best car? Who has the nicest building? Who preaches better? Who prophesies better? Who has the most influential and affluent members of society? These are the things Pastors fight over. These are the seedlings of envy that persistently plague the Church and retard its effectiveness.
These are the maladies that continue to ensure that the Church is worldly and carnal. These are the reasons why unity, much talked about as it is whenever Pastors meet, can never happen. Then there is the arena of performance. If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is high on the list – individually and corporately. Remember the story in the Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in Israel after he defeated the Philistine bully, Goliath. Jealousy and envy began to grow in Saul's heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go out to David, especially the womenfolk as they started to sing songs of adulation in David's honor.
Women will always get you in trouble, son! Believe you me, sometimes Pastors fight over women – women who are not even their wives! But I digress. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy and envy until the day he died. It is this madness of competition that has resulted in the murk we find ourselves in. Is it any wonder that we hear rumors of Pastors buying "powers" from Ghana, Nigeria, and Durban? Why this craze and obsession with being the best? It's nothing but the spirit of envy! You envy Pastor X because of what he has, so you travel thousands of miles to consult foreign gods so that you can best him! Our local Churches, I am sorry to say, are places where jealousy and envy lurk big time.
The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is because the Church is a "volunteer" organization. People give their money and "volunteer" their time, and as a result, feel they are entitled to certain things, whether it's roles of leadership, or recognition for special acts of service or giving.
People easily become jealous of one another across the board – people jealous of other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts. Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents' children. Women jealous of the Pastor's wife. Choir members fighting to lead songs. Sons trying to out-preach and out-prophesy their Pastors. Women elbowing one another in an attempt to catch the attentions of single brothers or single Pastors.
There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst. It's total madness! How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy in our midst. But even worse, how naïve we are to give in to it! The Church of Jesus Christ is the last place the bane of jealousy and envy should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us impervious to envy's attacks.
The seed of all this chaos begins with comparisons. Comparison is the root of all envy. Whenever you start comparing yourself, you’re in a no-win situation. If you compare yourself with someone who is more effective than you, you’ll be full of envy. If you are more effective than they are, you’ll be full of arrogance and pride.
Either way, comparisons will take you down. Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keeping us from realizing our full potential, and ultimately leading us into destructive behaviors. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. Once envy takes a hold of you, you soon act out of character.
Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don't have: a lot of money, a big Church, a pretty wife, an expensive car, a magnetic personality, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There's nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognizing that they do not bestow value on our lives, nor does their absence make us lesser human beings.
However, if and when these things become essential to us and are viewed as the benchmarks of success, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We'll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster. John D. Rockefeller, believed to be the wealthiest American who has ever lived, said when he was asked how much money is enough, "Just one more dollar," was his sage reply.
There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition for our achievements. But at times that craving can become a competitive spirit that has to outdo everyone else. When that happens, you can be sure envy is at the root. Today's society values people for their appearance or their achievements. It is very difficult not to be envious of the woman with a beautiful figure when you struggle daily to not gain a kilo. It's hard to feel good about ourselves when we've been driving the same car for ten years while others are enjoying this year's luxury models.
We don't feel accomplished flying economy while the person down the street is posting pictures of themselves daily on social media flying first and business class to exotic destinations. We don't accept ourselves as we are; we are unable to recognize our own strengths. Instead, we compare our weaknesses with others' strengths, and consequently we feel envious. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Athletes compare themselves with other athletes.
Lawyers compare themselves with other lawyers. Pastors compare themselves with other Pastors. And we compare ourselves with the ones closest to us. The successful Pastor across the country doesn’t bother us – but the one across the street does. F.B. Meyer was Pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town.
Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the Pastors I know. Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other Pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” Pastors on his right and left.
In time he found that his own Church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry! Similarly, Jack Hayford, a Pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other Pastor. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large Church down the street called First Baptist.
He prayed for God to bless and prosper that Church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow. That's the way to kill this monster – prayer. Until we can learn to pray for those who intimidate us and wish them well, we'll continue to suffer under the yoke of envy and jealousy.
And, let's not forget that these are not just character flaws or weaknesses – these are sins to be repented of! These are the parents of witchcraft! Back in the villages we hail from, we knew that witchcraft was begotten by envy. Those who were successful in life were often the targets of witchcraft simply because they had something, and the poorer village folks couldn't stand them and therefore resorted to witchcraft so as to halt their rise.
And it wasn't even like they had anything to warrant witchcraft spells! Such folks would be having maybe a small general dealer or a small bakkie! But the village witches would be up in arms! Well, it seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The witches of yesteryear in the village who wore hobo garb and feathers and beads riding baboons and hyenas, have now changed wardrobes and are now wearing Armani suits and driving Range Rovers in the city. Same script, different cast. May God help us to be able to not just handle, but also be able to celebrate the success of our neighbor without turning green and nasty.
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