During the elections last year BDP promised to ‘move Botswana forward’ and itemised five key areas which the President put in a red card on which he appended his signature for unequivocal ownership. This is the yardstick that Batswana will use to measure success during the next five years. Let me remind you of what the Presidential Promise Red Card contained;
Making job creation priority number 1 Taking Batswana out of poverty Increase education funding Eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV Fight corruption in all its manifestations
It is clear that Batswana who voted for BDP and are directly or indirectly affected by the above list will measure success; when they see change in their own lives, when they see change in the lives of their loved ones, when they see change in the lives of the people they know; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours getting employed meaningfully; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours graduating out of poverty and becoming ‘bo se mang mang’ in society; when they see the schools where their children, where the children of their loved one’s and where the children of their fellow citizens go have enough classrooms, have decent desks and chairs in the classrooms, have no broken widows, falling ceilings and dangling cladding, when all their schools have happy and motivated teachers and above all their children performing just as well as those in private schools; when no more children are born with HIV and when most of us understand and gallantly fight to eliminate new HIV infection; when journalists are free to report anything that looks like corruption (proven or not proven); when most if not all of us truly abhor corruption and all its manifestations and when we can talk without fear or favour about real or perceived corrupt practices anyway in our public or private institutions; when the tendering and recruitment processes in public and private institutions are corruption free; when all tenders and jobs are awarded on merit and merit only, not on who knows who or who can financially corrupt who.
Success will therefore be declared in an unsophisticated way when people observe positive change in their lives. However, my advice for the President is for him to have another card that he shares with the public, a score card with targets against each area on which HE can measure progress objectively. Without targets, some people might even think this was just electioneering noise (gimmick) never intended to be achieved. This would be veritable travesty and dishonesty that cannot be expected to come from our President. I wish the President well and trust that he will work hard together with his team to put targets and get positive results on these chosen five areas.
My observations and free advice on the five areas for consideration by the President and his party;
JOB CREATION AS A NUMBER ONE PRIORITY
The president is right and need to be commended for identifying job creation as a number one priority. However, seven months after the election there are no apparent positive signs to indicate that job creation is indeed a number one priority. The economy has lost close to a 1000 jobs since the elections and there are indications that more job losses are on the cards in both private and public domain. I am not aware of any new jobs that have been created since the elections. The youth policies that the government has recently introduced will not create employment but will severely eat into government coffers with no worthy returns. The leather park has potential to create over 5000 jobs but I am not convinced that government has invested enough resources in planning and finding what is required to sustain the leather park.
Where is the government going to get the requisite engineers, chemists, marketing gurus to sustain this park? Where will we get the artisans, technicians and operators to run these leather plants? Have we identified the markets and marketing challenges that we will face? If we are going to rely on expatriates do we have the schools, the medical facilities, accommodation, entertainment and the pay packets that will attract the right caliber of expatriates in Lobatse? I ask the same questions about the pula steel and the planned SPEDU agro industries in Phikwe. Diamond beneficiation has potential to create much more than the 3000 jobs offered by De Beers and sadly even these jobs are being lost as factories close and retrench. Government needs to look closely at their agreements with De Beers and get their thinking and independent hats on and make diamond beneficiation a reality that we can be proud of. Beneficiation is doable; viable with potential to create more jobs than we can supply; it only needs government willingness to engage.
We desperately need job creation for both young and old for us to graduate out of government imposed poverty. We must not remove older productive people to replace them with the younger ones for the sake of creating youth employment. This will be ’robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and is disingenuous and will rob Botswana of much needed experience. The youth need to be employed on their own merit, trained and skilled without necessarily displacing others. We need growth in our economy so that all employable Batswana can be meaningfully employed.
TAKING BATSWANA OUT OF POVERTY
Batswana are poor because they have not been given the opportunities they deserve in their own country. We seem to be glorifying and celebrating poverty by the schemes that we have employed which in my humble view are totally ill advised and burying Batswana deeper into poverty. We need to empower Batswana by providing rewarding jobs and creating business opportunities for business minded Batswana to thrive. We should not be seen to be spoon feeding the nation. Like the Chinese I say, ‘do not give me fish but teach me how to fish and go away’. The government scheme of building houses for the poor is populist, ill informed and demeaning as well as unsustainable and creating a poverty mentality that says ‘sit back government will provide’. How many of these so called poor people do we have countrywide? How many houses are we going to build? Are we going to feed and clothes these people and for how long? The poverty eradication schemes are wasting government finances and should be suspended and the money redirected towards education, training, skilling and job creation. Creation of decent jobs is the key and a number one priority that will pull our people out of poverty.
INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING
For me this should also be a number one priority together with job creation. The two are connected together like siamese twins. It is through education that we will fill positions created by employment opportunities. It is through education that we will create employment opportunities, hence the irrefutable twinning of the two areas. Our education is in a mess. Considering the appalling conditions under which most of our students and teachers have to contend with, we must consider ourselves lucky to be still producing graduates. Sample a few primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools and see the conditions under which our children and teachers face daily; the broken chairs, broken tables, broken windows, falling ceilings etc; the winter winds and the hot summer days when both the teacher have to be in these classrooms teaching passionately and student listening intently and absorbing what’s being taught; those teachers teaching and students being taught under trees? How many of us would like to be teachers and can we really get the best from our children? What kind of feedstock are we giving to our institutions of higher learning and subsequently industry? Finally how are these teachers remunerated considering what they are charged to deliver and the conditions under which they operate?
The presidential housing appeal and the monthly presidential and ministerial walk abouts and public servant community services days should be countrywide and redirected towards our schools. They should help with the maintenance and upkeep of the local schools. The housing appeal money must build more classrooms and put air conditioning in our schools for conducive learning environment.
ELIMINATE MOTHER TO CHILD HIV TRANSMISSION
When it comes to HIV, they are two people in this country who will go into our history books as having been real champions in the fight against HIV and aids. These are Rre Louis Nchindo (May he find peace and may his spirit live on) who was very futuristic in his outlook and realised that HIV and aids had the potential to wipe out our people if nothing was done and done fast. He introduced free HIV monitoring and treatment for all Debswana employees. This was a first in Africa if not the world. President Festus Mogae then followed suit for the country. These are the two men who saved this country from what would have been a national disaster of unimaginable proportions. This one is an area where all Batswana must champion to honour the efforts of Louis Nchindo and Festus Mogae.
FIGHT CORRUPTION AND ALL ITS MANIFESTAION
I do not real want to talk about this one, but corruption is bleeding this country regardless of what the transparency international says about us being ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’. I really do not know how they gather their data. Their intelligence gathering systems must be flawed. For me it seems they just use information supplied by government agencies and embassies. One of the major reasons why projects fail dismally and why productivity levels are low is because of corrupt practices that we covertly and sometimes overtly condone. How on earth do you get anything to be done properly when some key people in the economy are employed corruptly with no requisite aptitude for the job they do and when many tenders are awarded corruptly to companies that do not qualify? Throttling merit and competency in our procurement and recruitment processes has a devastating effect on productivity and in advancing our economic progression.
In conclusion, can BDP redeem itself? I want to believe so. The President must redouble his efforts on job creation, education and corruption to regain some ground. He does not need money as money is being wasted daily in useless endevours and corrupt practices through out government departments. Surely DIS must know where the rot is if it is not corrupt itself and together with the ministry of finance must clean the rot and rechannel the resources. The government needs to change its mind set and begin to engage well meaning and competent Batswana and experts to help in job creation, improving education and curbing corruption. The rest will then fall in place. The president must demand measurable targets and annual progress report in these three areas and heads must roll if the targets are not met. He need now more than ever competent people on his side; people with integrity; people who will tell him nothing but the truth to redeem himself and the legacy of his father.
My final advice to the President and BDP is that to survive beyond 2019, BDP needs Ndelu Seretse as chairman and Botsalo Ntuane as secretary general. These are the two men seeking leadership of the party with the requisite intellectual capacity and political savvy to help BDP survive beyond 2019. This country will need a strong opposition to keep the new government in 2019 in check. Posterity will judge BDP and the President harshly if they fail to see the winds of change that are sweeping the country and if they fail to refocus BDP by getting new capable leadership who will engage and collaborate meaningfully with the up coming astute and transformational leadership of the country!
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org