BOCONGO board members, affi liates, friends and donours at organisation Biennial conference last year.
The future of the non-governmental organisations’ umbrella body, the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (BOCONGO) looks bleak – the organisation could run out of funds before the end of this year.
As things stand, a number of international donors have pulled out and more are expected to follow suit, WeekendPost can reveal.
A sizable number of BOCONGO staff members lost jobs as a result of lack of funding of projects and programmes within BOCONGO. As a member driven organisation, BOCONGO which was formed in 1995 – to create an enabling environment for NGO’s in Botswana, boasts of more than 100 affiliates.
WeekendPost has established that most funders for the various programmes at BOCONGO have already pulled out. Some of the programmes that are no longer available at the organisation include Local Governance Capacity Development Support Project which was funded by the Institute of Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) – which later expanded throughout Africa.
The programme focused on improving the quality of local governance in Botswana by deepening democratic processes at the local level and as well as improving local government service delivery. IDASA partnered with BOCONGO, Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in implementing the project. The project contract reached its completion in 2012/13 and was not extended.
Another collapsed BOCONGO project which was funded by the Ministry of Health through the proceeds of the notorious Alcohol levy, known as the Alcohol project was also terminated during 2013/14 financial year. The project was aimed at empowering and educating communities on responsible drinking and the dangers of alcohol abuse across the country. It is not clear why the project was removed from BOCONGO as the national Alcohol levy continues to rake in millions of Pula from alcohol consumers.
However there were earlier reports of unsatisfactory annotations by affiliates of the umbrella body who claimed the project could have been implemented elsewhere and not by the mother body. Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) and other NGO’s focused on alcohol abuse were said to have been the rightful beneficiaries of the project and vigorously advocated for the project take over.
WeekendPost could not however establish whether the members were subsequently given the project as a result of the development.
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has also thrown in the towel after sponsoring BOCONGO since 2006 to implement a National Budget Analysis project which basically brought Civil Society actors together to analyse and comment on the national budget speech as presented before parliament by the minister of Finance and Development Planning.
Through the programme, CSO’s assessed its responsiveness to the needs of the majority of the people of Botswana – especially the marginalized and vulnerable members of the community. It was funded by African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) which pulled off midway and later FES followed suit in 2011/12.
In combating HIV/AIDS scourge, BOCONGO was also funded by Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT) which has long ceased their two year partnership. The project was aimed at contributing to efforts of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The project enhanced the ability of NGO’s and staff to anticipate, minimize and cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS. Like others, the project’s funding was never renewed years back when it ended.
This publication has established that the only project currently running at BOCONGO is the Family Health International (FHI) 360 which partnered with the umbrella body under ‘Maatla – Botswana Civil Society Strengthening Program.’ FHI 360 programs help build the capacity of local civil society organizations to respond to HIV and AIDS in Botswana.
It is understood that previous programs have enhanced the quality of voluntary counseling and testing centers, increased services that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and improved knowledge of HIV prevention among youth ages 10–17.
According to sources who spoke to the Weekend Post on condition of anonymity, “FHI 360 partnership with BOCONGO is also expected to come to a close before end of the year”.
All the projects and programmes at BOCONGO had and/or have a battalion of employees including Project Coordinators as well as complementing staff members whom if projects collapse – would lose jobs instantly as well. Many have lost jobs at BOCONGO and others are tipped to be cut later this year as well.
The Alcohol Project, for example had a Project Coordinator, 2 Assistant Project coordinators and close to 100 Peer Educators and Counsellors who all lost their jobs following the closure of the project. With the Local Government’s IDASA project, the Coordinator too suffered a job loss following the ceasing of funds for the project.
Information reaching WeekendPost suggests that going forward, the FHI 360 project could also lay off some few staff members left at the organization including Accounts Assistant, and formerly HIV/AIDS project Coordinator and Administration Assistant.
Only skeletal staff is expected to remain, including Executive Secretary and Office Assistant – whose salaries are funded by government through the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA). By the time of going to print, BOCONGO Executive Secretary, Bagaisi Mabilo had not responded to Weekend Post email inquiries on the matter.
However MLHA funds are said to be diverted from BOCONGO as previously has been the case to newly established NGO Council. There is a growing division between the two bodies especially with relation to NGO funds as some say NGO Council’s role is virtually a duplicate of BOCONGO.
An immaculate source at BOCONGO confirmed that they have not yet received NGO funds and it is not clear whether they will get funding from government as the money now goes to the NGO Council. “It is still difficult here, we are not sure whether MLHA will still fund us this year and the only funder who has been with us, being FHI 360 is pulling out end of September, go thata (It’s a challenging time)!” a source at BOCONGO offices told this publication.
BOCONGO may face the fate encountered by many other NGO’s which had to close down as result of donors pulling out, especially after categorization of Botswana as a middle income country.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.