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YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY!

A lot of writers, commentators and politicians have written and talked about youth development. We have all heard that the future belongs to our youth. Without the youth there is simply NO future to talk about. This is the naked truth that no one can deny. We therefore cannot afford to play politics with our youth because by doing so we will be playing with the future of this beautiful country.  But what are we doing to prepare our youth for the future we so passionately talk about?

Realising that we have a growing number of young people who will soon have or have assumed a significant political voice, the government has come up with a number of policies meant to appease the youth and  thus create a false sense of safety not only aimed at soothing the youth into submission but also to subtly buy their loyalty.  With these policies the government is playing with a boomerang, it will fire back.

These policies are not founded on solid national development principles and will not serve to develop our youth into desirable future leaders. We will breed corrupt and bitter leaders who will destroy the foundations of our democracy as well as what will have remained of our economy.  What future then will be inherited by generations to come?   Although the government appears to be caring for our youth, the contrary is true.  The youth programs are nothing more than naked self preservation stunts meant only to perpetuate the continued rule of the current government without any due consideration for the long-term survival of our nation.

Fortunately we have a youth that is relatively educated, passionate, energetic, and innovative and increasingly becoming brave.  Taking them for granted will not work any more. The reality is that they are now awake and can quietly see for themselves what is going on.  They will fend for themselves. They are busy forming companies and applying for government grants as advised by government hoping that they will find some temporary relief from the harsh realities of unemployment and poverty and prepare themselves for the future they deserve. These young people are now watching the government with eagle eyes. The ill advised government publicly announced policy of hiring only BDP members will back fire in a manner that will shock the current government to its core.

The youth hold the keys to the future of our republic.  If the government really cared about the youth we should not be having youth unemployment of over 22 % in such a small population; we should not be having the youth programs we currently have; our development agenda would be clearly youth centric and visibly youth focused. The youth programs of providing grants to untrained youth, ipelegeng, tirelo sechaba, unsupervised internships and many other ill conceived programs will not take the youth anywhere. How do you give a grant to someone to start a business when you know that the person has not been prepared in any shape or form for such a business adventure?  I cannot believe a caring government would spend millions if not billions of Pula on the youth without first identifying their aptitudes, likes and talents, then training them and giving them appropriate opportunities to practically develop their talents.  We need first to understand the developmental needs of our youth and apply our minds in those specific areas so that we can develop well rounded youth who will effectively drive our tomorrow.

Without jobs, the youth are ‘’forced’’ to form companies and to take grants when they do not have a clue of how to run a business.  This is what some people call classical tokenism which is based on the illusion that people cannot see through these underhanded political manipulations. It is clear that the youth cannot win tenders without paying a price. Some will pay a price to win these tenders, but unfortunately many of them will not be able execute the projects well because they only had the ‘know who’ and not the ‘know how’. This results in a multitude of youth who are frustrated and totally disillusioned because of these failures.   When these young people fail, the same government resort to calling them names such as ‘irresponsible young people who lack focus, direction and fortitude’, when in fact; it is the government that is,  dare I say, grossly irresponsible.

Any youth development program that leaves behind the parents (community), the business community and the labour movement will not proper.   The government is the father of the nation and must ensure that the policies they adopt will develop the youth fully for future diverse business and social challenges.  But the government must realise that it cannot do this alone. The community, the business community, the labour movement must all come on board through an effective government facilitated process. 

When a young person graduates from university or from a technical college, they must know that, if they have fully applied themselves a bright future awaits ahead for them.  Each young person must have a clear career path that will lead them toward their preferred future. The only thing that should interfere with that career path is the failure by the concerned youth, not because there is no opportunity.

If you look at any job advert in our country, every employer including government is looking for at least five years experience. Where do our youth get the five year experience from? There must be some deliberate government policies that seek to ensure that each company in Botswana has a youth development programme; that they have youth that they mentor and coach from various institutions; that during the holidays these youth go for vocational work experience in these companies including government departments.

These youth must know that if they apply themselves fully they have a future in that company or department.  Debswana has voluntarily done this for many years and ought to be congratulated. Other companies including government should be persuaded to do the same.  The business community and the labour movement ought to play meaningful roles in youth development, as without the youth everyone including government is doomed to fail in the long term.

The government should be facilitating the development of world class local companies, in building construction, road construction/maintenance, agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, even mining and beneficiation. This is where the government should be spending their CEDA, LEA and YDF money; preparing for the effective youth entry into industry.  These world-class local companies would then employ the youth and train them fully to become experts and managers in their chosen fields. Some of these youth may eventually start their own businesses allowing the economy to continue to grow organically and absorb more youth.

How can a sincere and caring government give grants to the youth to start agricultural projects for example; when these young people are not trained in agriculture; when these young people do not have land; when there is no water to support such agricultural activities?  A caring government will fully involve the community here. After fully training the youth so inclined, this government will seek partnership with the communities for land acquisition and will then provide water, electricity and road infrastructure to support the agricultural projects.  The community will play a pivotal role not only in providing land but also in providing labour, accommodation and generally support for the youth. These youth projects will therefore not only benefit the youth but the community at large. These youth will also help the community to grow providing a win-win scenario for all.

A truly caring government will do more; it would also create opportunities for deserving youths to be seconded to international companies for exposure and training in order to create opportunities for the country in the global village.  These youth would ultimately attract direct foreign investment and would be our unpaid ambassadors in these countries. They would comeback with a wealth of experience that will benefit our country immensely. What a worthy investment into our future!

I like the minister of youth Mr.  OLOPENG. He has so much energy and he really wants to leave a lasting legacy for the youth, but unfortunately he is working and building on a sandy foundation. 

The youth policies he inherited and supports are not sustainable. He is on record saying that at the end of his term he will have created five youth millionaires.  I do not know whether this is a good objective or just a lofty one that will not make any long-term difference to the lives of our youth.  What is a millionaire? Does it mean someone with a million Pula in the bank, does it mean someone with property worth a million Pula, does it mean someone who has invested a million Pula in some business or does it mean someone who is creating wealth worth millions of Pula daily, monthly or yearly. What is a millionaire in our context or the minister’s context?  Tenderpreneurs can easily make millions in a single tender, are they millionaires? Hopefully the minister is not going to create tenderpreneurs and call them entrepreneurs. I will leave this for you to contemplate and watch the space as the minister develops these five youth millionaires!

As I conclude, where are the youth who continue to drop out of the education system after secondary school, year on year?  What do we have for these dropouts? Is there anything they can do other than ipelegeng or loiter in the streets? I believe they have talents that can be developed.  What happens to the thousands of youth who graduate every year?  Do we know where they are and what they are doing?  A caring government who spends so much money on the youth should know and must have a plan for each one of these young people. The 20000 target project the ministry of education has recently embarked upon is based on the same old principles that have wasted millions and left the youth in the cold after training. There is need for a third leg for that program to stand. The business community is missing.

I know many young people who are eager to make a difference in our country but cannot find appropriate opportunities.  Some even want to volunteer their services for free to gain experience but they cannot be given the opportunities they need.

A paradigm shift is therefore urgently required for our youth development to appropriately empower the youth.  If there is no future without the youth; if there is no sustainable development without the youth, then we should stop playing lip service and do the necessary now.
Let us continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for posterity.

Bernard Busani
E mail;  HYPERLINK "mailto:bernard.busani@gmail.com" bernard.busani@gmail.com;   Tel; 71751440

 

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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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