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Foreign Prisoners! Should we then provide all foreigners with ARVs?

The government has once more lost an appeal against the provision of ARVs to foreign inmates. I think this is a decisive win by BONELA and their supporters. Government must move fast to do the necessary to respect the law. The appeals’ court must be congratulated for its principled stand in support of the law.

The prison act says all prisoners regardless of where they come from must be treated the same and must have the same privileges and same medical care. One wonders if this is not a right that should be applicable to all human beings.  One further wonders why this is only applicable to prisoners.

However, this is a law that was passed by our parliament and the government has no choice but to obey its own law. I am glad though that the government has caused all this commotion by not providing foreign prisoners with this medication; otherwise some of us would not have known that there exists such a law for prisoners and not the rest of society. I again wonder aloud why government endowed with its legal brains could not have known that they do not have a case when such a law that is so explicit exists!

BONELA and its lawyers are celebrating, yes there must celebrate because they mounted a spirited legal battle and won all the cases against government with all access to unlimited legal and financial resources.  So they must celebrate for winning this battle. While they celebrate, they must also be asking themselves whether this was the correct battle to wage against government.

The specific legal battle has been won but they must not exaggerate this win. The assertion by BONELA lawyers that this case is a victory for all Batswana and that it will benefit all Batswana in prison and outside prison is no entirely correct.

This in my view is very simplistic. Yes it will benefit the prison population, but what happens when these prisoners leave the prisons to go back to the world and cannot afford to continue this lifelong medication.

Will these prisoners stop infecting others including Batswana and how long will they live before they die if they cannot get medication outside prison?  I will be forgiven for believing that BONELA and their lawyers have not looked at this issue in a holistic manner. 

We need a holistic solution if we want to effectively fight HIV and aids, not an associated case that has potential to jeopardise the entire HIV/aids program in Botswana. BONELA and their lawyers do not seem to care whether we can afford this or not as a country. 

They do not care if this depletes budgets from other health care services, from school programs and from other social and development programs. This does not matter according to BONELA and their lawyers as long as these foreign prisoners get our ARVs. I do not believe this a responsible position to take.

The argument that this will benefit all Batswana is limited in its scope. BONELA’s logic will apply only if we provide ARVs to all foreigners living in our country but by extension also everyone in the world who needs such treatment must be provided with this medication. Why is this so? 

The answer is obvious. We live in the global village where people work together across nations; where people have relationships across nations; where people marry across nations. Therefore people infect each other globally. So if we really want to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS we must have a global approach and set up a global fund to fight this scourge? If we had a global fund for HIV/AIDS programs managed perhaps by the United Nations I would celebrate with BONELAs.

Maybe this is what these human rights activists should be fighting for not just for prisoners in Botswana.

Discrimination is not a good word, we know that, but sometimes we have to discriminate in order safe guard our own interests.  We choose to use other words when we discriminate. One of the major reasons why communism failed is because of its perceived utopian desire to share every thing because they hated discrimination with passion.

Human beings you like it or not are selfish beings. Who honestly does not want himself or herself first?  Who will feed his neigbour’s children before he feeds his own children? Such a human being does not exist in reality.

Apart from the law, why would we want our government to give prisoners ARVs when there is no international obligation to do so and especially when we know that providing ARV s is a life commitment which our government cannot honour? BONELA’s argument is full of holes from a social and long-term point of view.

From a legal perspective, government has enacted this ACT and it is the same government that can repeal it. To me it looks like this is one of the pieces of legislation that was ill advised. One wonders what the legal brains at the government enclave were doing when they allowed such a legislation to pass. For now, it looks like we have no choice but to supply ARVs to prisoners and impoverish the nation until we can reverse this piece of legislation.

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, we have 4241 prisoners (2012) and the prison occupancy is 99.8 %. This means our prisons are full and from reports from eye witnesses, our prisons are in pathetic, unbearable hygienic conditions. The ablutions specifically are reported to be in real bad conditions. 

Should we rather be fighting to improve the unhealthy conditions in our prisons rather than the short term issue of supplying ARVs to foreign prisoners?  How many people have died because of the poor hygienic standards in our prisons? This was an aside; my real question here is what do we gain by locking foreign prisoners in our jails?

In a previous submission I argued that we should deport foreigners when the commit crime in our country. Why can’t we deport them back to their country and declare them prohibited inhabitants never to set foot in our country. We have done that to people who in the eyes of many did not commit any clime except to criticise our government. What do we gain by imprisoning foreigners in our jails?

Some of our people including myself think that there is absolutely no benefit in locking foreigners in our prisons.  What we should perhaps allow is small holding cells which could be used while they await their deportation. Our prisons are full (99.8%) and do we need to build more prisons to cater for foreigners? 

The cost of running our prisons will increase for every foreigner we imprison. There will be more food, more medicines, more water, more electricity, more cleaning materials, more that and more this. These are things we do not have for all our people and our responsibility must first be for our own people.

What legal responsibility do we have for keeping these foreign criminals in our prisons?  This is not xenophobic as some may start thinking.  We simple do not keep foreigners if there are no mutual benefits. No country does that, except for refugees.  Why are we keeping these people then when they have offended our justice and our people? Are they not better off in their countries of origin?

There is another good reason why we should deport them; it would work as a crime deterrent measure for foreigners. If a foreigner knows that committing a crime in Botswana, will earn him a one way ticket back to his country, then that foreigner will think twice before committing a crime in Botswana.  

In conclusion we should not reward criminals by providing them with ARVs that we cannot even afford for our own people. We must think about our people first. I think those people who want foreigners to be provided with ARVs should rather fight for a global fund for international management of HIV/ AIDS. It cannot be our government responsibility to provide foreigners with ARVs when they cannot afford them and also when we cannot guarantee the continued provision of these lifelong drugs after the prison life.  

If our government is able to depot people for crimes only known by the president why is the same government not able to depot known criminals?  Government should not hesitate to depot all foreign prisoners. This will not only reduce prison maintenance costs and congestion but may also cause the world to realise  that HIV/AIDS requires a global response as it does not respect boundaries and borders designed by man!

Bernard Busani
E mail; 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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