Connect with us
Advertisement

The girl child: Premature marriage a cause of concern

“A young girl aged 12 offered in marriage to an octogenarian polygamist who already has 10 wives!”
 

A local newspaper carried that story. And hair-raising stories of this nature feature prominently in the news. Some prophets of doom have attributed this phenomenon to some of the signs of the times. I certainly beg to differ. You were also told that this development is caused by unfriendly economic times bedevilling our society but I say unto you: The problem, as I see it, is mostly gender related. This article is in two phases: Today it will capture the definition, manifestation and implications of gender on the rights of the girl child and in the oncoming epistle venture into the way forward.

 
What is gender? According to both common nonsense and everyday English parlance, the term gender means sex. Admittedly, the two terms are synonyms but can hardly be employed interchangeably. Could they? A big “NO’ indeed. The term sex, on one hand, is a concept that is biologically determined and deals with whether one is either male or female and that determination can be perceived with the naked eye.

For example, if we doubt someone’s sex we can easily ask him to strip nude naked and invade his private sphere.Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct .It is sociologically determined andor comes from socialisation. In line with this reasoning ,the American psychoanalyst ,Robert Stoller, as cited in Sociology in Perspective  by Mark Kirby et al, distinguishes sex and  gender, and rightly so ,in the following manner:


——–the anatomical features which mark out men and women might be labelled as ‘sex’ while ‘gender’ is culturally constructed’ (1997:161).


Sociologically speaking, socialisation is a process by which the norms and values of the society are inculcated into one from birth to death. It is the politics of the sexes or what we associate the sexes with. Here we are talking about masculinity and femininity. Also included in the universal set are concepts matriarchy and patriarchy, the latter of which encourages the subordination of women and the attendant glorification of macho societies.

If I were to pose and ask you right now about what God‘s sex really is, the most spontaneous response, and ironically from women themselves, for that matter, will surely be that He is male. That response is quite understandable because it is how we have been socialised. Women are expected to be emotional while men must be rational.

Men must also be stoical and indifferent to pain. I am sure those so much into literature would remember the tragic hero, okonkwo, in Chinua Achebe‘s “Things Fall Apart” and he is a summarised version of a classic description of manhood. The problem, as I see it, is deeply rooted in our culture and, sadly, our culture is male dominated. It is deeply rooted in patriarchy.


Since the earliest of the times women have been portrayed as sex toys or objects of male sexual gratification. I am sure those who have witnessed them dance in a sexually suggestive manner would understand what this writer means here. The dancing style speaks volumes and seems to be confirming or lending credibility to such claims and stereotypes. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when parents buy a toy for the girl child it is almost always a doll while the boy child gets a toy gun or model car.

Parents are thus re-enforcing the view that getting married and procreating children is the ultimate good in life for the girl child. The afore described is the ascribed role forof women and there is virtually nothing more pleasing to a woman than the mere prospects of getting married.

From a tender age the girl child is taught how to please her prospective spouse in bed  and this ‘apprenticeship’ is attained through various initiation ceremonies .Against that background ,the girl child has been rushing to get married at a very tender age and at the slightest given opportunity in order to put the newly acquired theory into practice.

When in times of financial crises such as the ones obtaining in Zimbabwe at the moment, parents are always ready and raring to have the girl child pull out of school in favour of the boy child who, it is erroneously believed, is the only one who can maintain the family name. Perhaps, to borrow Chinua Achebe‘s philosophy, in” Things Fall Apart”, the boy child can best be enlikened to;
One of “— the young suckers that will grow when the old banana tree dies”


An idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop. Those girls idling around, and out of school, would want to seek solace in marriage. In some extreme cases the girl child is offered in marriage to a well-to –do man by her poverty stricken parents in exchange for money, the root cause of all evils. Which  is precisely why in a sense some people link this problem to economic ills besetting the society .Again this writer does not  totally subscribe to this amateurish reasoning because if it were so  this problem should then affect both the girl and the boy child and not just one sex being at the receiving end.


Some primitive communities still practice that ritual of giving away a virgin girl child to a murdered person‘s relatives as part of payment to appease the angry spirits. As a result, the unfortunate girl gets married to the deceased person‘s relatives even if she does not approve of the marriage, let alone, love the man concerned at all.

For fear of opening up the proverbial Pandora’s Box, I would not venture into certain religious sects’ practices of arranged marriages between extremely young girls and very old church members under the guise that such marriages would have obtained God’s seal of approval. All this is a gross violation of the girl child‘s fundamental right to freedom of association.

Needless to say, the macho society encourages men to feed on a diet of sexual aggression, that is rape, as a way of subordinating women and, unfortunately, these women also include the girl child. Instead of having the culprits prosecuted for this act of criminality, the girl‘s parents would rather have the perpetrator marry the young girl victim.

Perpetrators of rape on the young girls include those HIV positive who erroneously believe that being intimate with young people would help cure their ailment and also misinformed business tycoons who have an uncanny propensity of directing their sexual venom into the girl child out of the mistaken belief that such a sexual encounter would boost the latter‘s business fortune.

Lest you forget -a typical macho man believes that deflowering and marrying young virgins would surely boost his ego and to him it is part and parcel of trophy collection! And what are the implications of this tendency onto the girl child?:

Apart from exposure to HIVAIDS, the girl child is being thrust into the world of adulthood earlier than was the case in the yesteryears. Without the much needed education, a catalyst for the acquisition of economic resources, the empowerment of women, a concept that has gained popular usage in recent years, will always remain unrealistic, if not romantic.

Furthermore, the girl‘s mind is still naive and therefore exploitable given that she has not been exposed to the vulgar aspects of life. That makes her ill-equipped to deal with life‘s challenges as a wife and parent, for that matter, while her so-called husband does have an inexhaustible wealth of experience in that regard. Coupled with these misfortunes, the girl child cannot realize her immense potential, not even an iota, and the nation at large cannot derive maximum benefit out of that potential.


The sad reality is that our legislation  hardly makes considerable strides in righting the current wrong in which women, in general, and the girl child ,in particular, are treated ,at best ,as playing second fiddle to their boy counterparts ,and , at worst, as if outside the bounds of normal society.

This flaw  is  understandable given that legislation ,just like customary law and  the Roman-Dutch Common law,  reflects the interests of males: customary law is a product of the historical  development of the so-called culture which ,as already alluded to, is  largely  patriarchal in nature. All Roman-Dutch scholars were either male or were influenced by patriarchy.

Across the globe there are just a few islands of female legislators in a vast sea of male ones. You need to know that before a law comes into existence it starts off as a Bill and, of course, in order for it to pass a litmus test it must have been subjected to rigorous voting. In their sane minds men would never vote for a Bill that is potentially prejudicial to their own interests but, instead, one that tends to marginalise women.

The bible, also, cannot go un-accused in this regard because all the 5 books of the Old Testament were written by a man, Moses, who was motivated by the desire to elevate both patriarchy and the Abrahamic tradition. Those who wrote after him, though there are some slight variations here and there with the Mosaic ideas, were simply freshening his ideological skeleton.


In conclusion, the reader must have noted that the problems affecting the girl child are neither natural nor God-given but result from socialisation in which patriarchy plays centre-stage .In as much the same way they can be changed through the same tool, socialisation. See you next week.


Kungwengwe Star Charles Is a law lecturer at Gaborone University Of Law In Botswana and a self-styled gender activist.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Can we cure ourselves from the cancer of corruption?

28th October 2020
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katholo

Bokani Lisa Motsu

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan

Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.

This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.

The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.

Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.

Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.

Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?

This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.

The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.

So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?

This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.

Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.

I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’  I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’

Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message.  Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?

The answer is – as always: now.

This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.

We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.

It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.

Let us start today.

*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana

Continue Reading

Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!