The gender movement should pause for a moment and consider a fresh approach towards addressing the gender imbalance. The fundamental aim should be to achieve a more balanced and fulfilled family rather than a divided, undisciplined and unstable family. The aim should be to build a stable, disciplined and a fulfilled nation.
We must start from the premise that the present generation did not create the gender imbalance we face. It is something that was inherited from many generations before us. It is not a women against men issue; It is neither a political issue; It is an issue that needs open mindedness; it’s an issue that we must deal with soberly without attempting to appease the gender movement. We must acknowledge that men and women were created differently to perform the different roles in building the family and the nation. This does not in anyway imply that one gender greater or more important than the other.
The mistakes of the past must be solved jointly without undue cohesion from one gender. Remember the letter I quoted last week. The man raised very important questions that many of us are afraid to raise. The letter raised question of dishonesty in dealing with gender issues and insinuated that the gender movement was a deliberate creation by some capitalists who want to destroy the family structure and weaken nations in order to wage economic wars against these unsuspecting nations.
I believe the target countries are in Africa. One is tempted to say this is a gross exaggeration, but what is the major cause of any war and instability in the world? Is it not control of economic resources? But do the perpetrators ever accept this as the reason?
They do not. What is the cause of wars and instability in the Middle East and North Africa? Is it not the oil? We are told it is religious intolerance and dictatorships but if you study these closely you will find that both of these are a creation of those powerful countries in the developed world. Is religion not meant to unite not to divide nations? This world is without doubt full of people who will do anything to control others using whatever convenient excuse there is.
The SADC region is one if not the only region in the world that is still to be fully exploited and is currently relatively stable. Its huge minerals and wildlife resources are the envy of many from the developed world. We cannot rule out that the gender issue is not being used as musk to create instability in Africa in order to gain access to its rich and untapped resources. So the gender card can be used as a convenient weapon to fuel discontent and weaken us in order to gain control of our natural resources. We have to be careful that we do not fall into this carefully engineered trap meant to ensnare us and make us forever weak and dependent.
Well that maybe scary, but hopefully it will move us to honestly begin to face the real underlying causes of the gender imbalance and help us establish what needs to be done to build a cohesive and balanced society that God intended for mankind. This is a call for social dialogue not a call for finger pointing, not a call for men to stand on one side and for women to stand on the other side and to start throwing salvos and stones at each other. This is not a time for the ruling party to stand on one side and the opposition parties on the other side and fight to win the hearts of women and their manipulators.
This is the time to start building bridges that will bring men and women closer together as complementary partners in building our nation. We do not need unhealthy competition between men and women where the only winners will be those who want to tear us apart in the name of gender equity.
If you go to many of the developed countries you will see how men and women in general relate to each other, you will see how husbands and wives treat each other and how together they bring up their children. Also while there, see what percentage of women hold leadership positions in their countries. It seems some of us have lost the plot here and followed the evil one who is continually deceiving us for his own good. Let us look at some pertinent gender issues that are potential timed explosives;
We must accept that the gender movement has created explosive societal divisions which we are failing to face head on for reasons that border on timidity or lack of foresight. We have coined and accepted new words and phrases. Words and phrases like; passion killing, alarming rates of divorce, gender based violence, gender based abuse, sugar daddies, sugar mummies, increasing levels of prostitution, increasing levels of homosexuality, increasing use of habit forming drugs; we are now even contemplating legalizing some of these vices. I believe this is a result of a nation that is at war with itself. When we start gender and age based movements, we are unwittingly dividing the nation into groups which groups will start fighting each other.
It is fine to have women movements and programs to address issues that relate only to women and men like wise can have theirs. It is also good to have youth programs for addressing issues that relate only to the youth. But if you discriminate only based on gender and age you are dividing the nation and unwittingly planting seeds of discord in your society. Such a situation could ultimately result in the nation becoming increasingly ungovernable allowing opportunists to take control. History is littered with such takeovers.
Let me give examples to explain what I mean. When people talk gender in this country and perhaps elsewhere, they are talking about women. Gender programs as currently fashioned are essentially for women leaving men behind. This means that as women become more and more assertive and more and more aggressive in pursuit of their voice as a result of these programs, men are left behind wondering what has become of their women. This inevitably results in men becoming angry as they do not understand their women fork any more.
Men begin to feel that they are not respected by their women anymore. Men respond either by becoming physical abusive or behaving in wayward manners. Is this not perhaps the reason for passion killing and gender based abuse that is ravaging this nation?
What is leading to the growth of sugar daddies and sugar mummies? Could it be because women have become too independent from their men counterparts and men have turned away towards vice resulting in both men and women doing as they please?
Is the gender movement not undermining family values thus creating a selfish free for all mentality which mentality promotes the notion that it is fine to care only for oneself as opposed to caring for the family and the nation? If men have been brought up and socialised in a particular way reversing that is a process that need to be managed by the gender movement.
Let us consider another explosive scenario. You are a middle income couple both working with a typical family of two boys and two girls who have now graduated from university and cannot find meaningful employment or business opportunities. Further you have an uncle and aunt aged around forty and both have never worked and are struggling to make ends meet.
They both have their own children boys and girls who through government scholarships have graduated at university and are also not employed. Your boys and your girls are looking for opportunities, would you accept a situation where the establishment favours your girls more than your boys because of gender? How would your boys feel if their sisters are offered employment and business opportunities only because of their gender and they remain at home struggling to survive?
How about your uncle and aunt who have struggled to raise their kids and suddenly their children get youth funding and grants from government to start some business! Your uncle and aunt have applied to get funding from CEDA to no avail, then your aunt because of gender is given a gender based project and your uncle is left out in the limbo despite his desire and known superior capabilities. If this happens to more and more families what will happen to the nation? Will this promotes peace and harmony in families and the nation at large? You can make your own deductions and conclusions.
Recently a number of women were sent to India to study solar systems and were paraded on BTV on their return. The question is why only women? Do men not need the same exposure? Is this not dividing the nation? The gender department seems to be a department meant for women alone. How about men? Do men also need a parallel men’s gender department? The gender department should be entrusted to build and not to destroy the family. The family is the nucleus and sanctity of a nation.
The family is a foundation and role model to teach us to love, to respect and to value each other. Our government through the gender department should foster the same principles in order to build a loving, caring and respectful nation that values people equally. The gender movement should also be driving the same agenda of nation building.
I believe the gender movement has gone over board and has allowed some women to take advantage and do as they please regardless of consequences and men have stood aside and wondered. When you see a very young girl who should be at school, going out with an old white man in full view of the public and we turn a blind eye, what are we saying about the future of this girl child? Unfortunately we are allowing the future of this girl child and many others who will follow her example to be permanently ruined.
But we have powerful and intelligent women in this country who I am sure will not want to be given positions of responsibility simply because they are women. They work very hard and compete fairly. They deserve what they have achieved. Let these women stop being political correct and only demand fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of gender. Men must also stop stooping to this gender biased pressure that is pitting our sons against our daughters in a contest that neither of them will win which contest will eventually destroy this beautiful land of ours if not stopped early in its tracks.
Let us work together to build this nation. Let us address the real issues that cause gender imbalance in a manner that does not destroy our national and moral values. Evil is evil, it must be addressed by society fairly and firmly whether it comes from a man or from a woman, whether it comes from the West or the East, whether it was intentionally done or not.
Perhaps we have gone too far away from our creator and we perhaps need to reconsider our ways and seek his intervention more than ever before in order to amicably address this gender imbalance monster.
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