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Gender equity: Time to think differently!


The question of gender is one that raises emotions when discussed, but it is a subject that we should engage in with honestly, without fear or favour and with carefully moderated emotions. In many cases I see that a lot of us try desperately to be political correct when addressing this issue because of fear of backlash from activists who can be very aggressive and emotional.

Gender equity should not be about women; it should not be about men; it should be about empowering all our women and men, all our girls and boys so that they can all play their full part in society not inhibited by any discriminatory laws and societal norms.

Only biological or physical differences should limit us; a man for obvious reasons cannot bear a child but he can fully take care of a child; a crippled man cannot climb stairs but he can be assisted to get to the very top.  Any human-made discriminatory tendencies should be eliminated to allow full use of all our human capital, male and female, to meet the needs of the individual as well as the interests of humanity.


It is no accident that we have both women and men. God created both man and woman; he created them equal in his own image. However, he created them at different times and differently in order for them to perform certain Godly assigned complementary functions. God said after creating man, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone; I will therefore make a helper suitable for him’.

Therefore, although women and men were not created biologically, physically and emotionally the same, the differences where a deliberate act of creation meant to empower us for the different roles and functions we were created to play in filling the earth and building it to serve humanity. We need to understand this in order for us to appreciate and to help each other to reach full potential. We must understand that no one is better than the other because of the accident of gender. We do not choose to be female or male, do we?


Since creation we have distorted and manipulated God’s plan. Over the years we have created structures, systems, customs, laws, dogmas etc that discriminated and disadvantaged God’s people based on gender. It looks like women suffered the most, but there are many areas where men are also discriminated against, but gender activists turn a blind eye. One can also say men are largely responsible for the creation of these inequalities and therefore to a large extent men must be urged to champion and lead the reversal of these bad practices.


In Botswana although there are still many discriminatory practices, practices and laws that unjustly prevented women from doing certain jobs and women being paid less than men for the same jobs have long been scrapped. I am not aware of any law in Botswana that discriminates against women, but if they are any they ought to be repelled immediately by parliament. I am however, aware of many entrenched practices that are discriminatory.  Gender activists who happen to be largely women do not talk about discriminatory practices against men.

For instance, the adoption law or practice where permission for adoption is only sought from the mother and not the father of the child; customary marriage where men must pay a bride price (lobola) for them to marry; customary practices where men must pay for ‘damages’ when a child is born out of wedlock.

These examples clearly demonstrate discriminatory tendencies against men. Both men and women must take equal responsibility in such cases. If a girl gets pregnant before marriage, unless the girl was raped, all the parties concerned must bear the consequences; the boy, the girl and parents of the two must take equal responsibility because they have all failed the society.


Maybe I should explain why! As society we must firmly place responsibility on the family to bring up their children in a manner that promotes social harmony, integrity, cohesion and moral uprightness. Society must demand that both the girl and the boy child cannot have sex until they are married. It used to be like this in our society, even before Christianity was entrenched in Botswana. 

It was uncommon, even a taboo in the 40s, 50s and 60s to have children born out of wedlock.  It was just not cool. This is also what the Bible preaches. Nowadays, besides pregnancy and the fact that it is ungodly, we have all sorts of diseases to contend with. 

Therefore if a girl gets pregnant before marriage both the parents of the girl and of the boy must be made to account by the society for failing their children. The consequences for pregnancy before marriage must be severe including forcing them to get married.  I think it used to be like that in the past, even king David in the Bible had to marry Bathsheba, the mother of king Solomon after the indiscretion he committed that led him to impregnate her (2 Samuel, chapter 11).


Assuming that most Batswana are Christians, we should perhaps use the Bible to attempt to understand the vexing question of gender equity.  After God had created the world and everything in it and saw that it was good, He created man and gave him have dominion over everything he created. 

God then said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God created a woman (Eve) and gave her to the man (Adam). The Bible then says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’.

The Bible also says, ‘He created both male and female in His own image’ as equals and gave them dominion over everything he created. Why should we then want to redo what God has done for us by denying people God given privileges based on gender?  How can we expect God to be happy with us when we do this?


God created man first and appointed him head of the family, but he commanded him to love and cling to his wife, and the wife to submit to and respect his husband. Submission does not imply making the wife a servant.  She is one with you, the same flesh. The man’s role as head of family is to protect his wife and family and not to abuse and enslave them. 

Women and men have complementary roles in building the family and consequently the nation.  If you love your wife, if you love your daughter, if you love your sister, if you love your mother, if you love your neighbour as the Bible commands, how then can you discriminate against anyone at all? The society including myself and all of us must change and go back to what God demands from us for our families and people.


The Bible does not say, therefore a man shall pay lobola and then leave his father and mother to cling to his wife. It says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ Where then did paying of the lobola come from? I believe it is a practice created by men to enforce male dominance over women.

No wonder some men interpret this to mean buying and owning a wife. This practice has become a source of conflict in marriages; in many cases resulting in increased rate of divorce when women start demanding equality and men denying them that equality because they ‘bought” them with a price.


The lobola practice also denies many men from marrying because they cannot afford to pay lobola (bogadi) and the expensive ceremonies that go with our contemporary marriages. This results in social ills such as cohabitation; children born out of wedlock; single parenting of children etc, leading to the creation of an unfulfilled society that despises the institution of marriage.  I have never heard gender activists complain about these malpractices. This is a serious discriminatory practice that has been created and accepted by society, but does it promote gender equity?


To make it worse, when a child is born out of wedlock, the man who also cannot marry because he cannot afford the expensive marriage system that the society demands is punished by the parents of the girl who demands payment of ‘damages’. The society is treating women like property to be ‘bought’ and ‘damaged’ like pieces of furniture. This cannot be right.  We definitely need to change this.


Normalising our marriage processes in order to promote gender equity, healthy and fulfilled families is a must do now. We must simplify our marriage processes and promote the marriage institution. Why should marriages be so expensive for men anyway? Why should men pay lobola and all the expenses pertaining to contemporary marriages? Why do our women accept this practice? Many of our societal ills (single parentage, divorces, passion killings, unfaithfulness, wayward behaviour of children etc) are a result of us having strayed away from God’s principles of marriage and His ways of justice for all.


There has been a lot of talk about the SADC gender protocol that Botswana has refused to sign. The protocol in my view is just another ‘feel good’ document that is meant to pacify gender activists and nothing else. Botswana government has been steadfast in stating that it does not support some clauses in the proposed protocol and therefore it shall not sign.

Why do we want to pressurize Botswana to sign, when it is not ready? Botswana has also said that she supports gender equity and is doing everything in its power to promote gender equity and added that 43 % of public institutions are headed by women.  The problem is with political representation where women continue to fail to make a significant mark.

However, women cannot and should not be imposed on the electorate. The call for changing our electoral system to enhance democracy is valid and must be adopted for a number of reasons including leveling of the political playing field, but should not specifically be done to get women to parliament. This would be against the guiding principle of gender equity which should be to empower all to reach their full potential. Everyone should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender.


In a democratic dispensation, we cannot and should not force people to elect women to positions of power simply because they are women; they must be elected based on merit and their ability to represent their people. The people must have a choice provided by an unbiased democratic set up, not an affirmative action as some gender activists demand. 

Appointments to positions of any kind should not be based on gender but the superior ability by the individual to carryout the functions of that office; otherwise we will be promoting unacceptable mediocrity in our country.  We have very capable women in this country; we must just support them and encourage them to reach their full potential, but without disadvantaging anyone.  Any self respecting and honourable woman would not want to be given a position simply because she is a woman.


In conclusion we must as a country work towards gender equity; by empowering all our people through education; by eliminating all discriminatory practices and adopting and enforcing best practices that will also inspire women aspiring for political office. But let us not be in a hurry to sign some of these regional and international protocols that binds us. If we adopt some of these protocols we must do so because they serve our purposes as a nation and are aligned to our national aspirations; fits in with our own realities, our own priorities, our time frames and our fiscal constraints.

Bernard Busani
Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 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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