Just a few questions to note: Have we done our groundwork on sustaining this industry? Is our approach not flawed?
Last year, before the October elections I penned an article on education for citizen empowerment which I never published, but the current challenges in the diamond beneficiation industry has provoked me to revisit that article which I have abridged for this submission. We must appreciate that; it is more than just ‘bringing our jobs back’ as some say. It is more complex. It is doing the necessary ground work with targeted investment on human capital for creation of permanent and sustainable businesses and jobs.
The closure of diamond beneficiation factories in Serowe and Gabane has left hundreds of our people jobless and in a state of confusion. This is not surprising because we have not built a foundation on which we can sustain these industries especially that we are not able to compete with the very best in the industry internationally and more importantly that we have not built-in legal protection for the industry.
I titled my paper, Education, Skilling, Training, Lifelong Learning, Professional Development and Citizen Empowerment which I have abridged below to suit.
It was interesting to see that during the build up to the elections political parties’ views on education were somewhat converging. The UDC and BCP wanted to divide the ministry of education into two and to introduce education for production. Mma Moitoi of the BDP admitted last year that the ministry was too big and that it needed to be divided. BDP also seem to have been converted to education for production, but I doubt if they really understand what this education is all about judging by their failure to implement the Kedikilwe’s National Commission on Education recommendations of 1993.
It is however, encouraging to see that as a nation we seem to be seeing the need for in-depth reforms in our education system. These reforms should be informed by our understanding that education is a foundation as well as a catalyst for our economic development. We are hopeful that the parties will work together for a world class educational system that will propel our economy to higher levels of growth. Together as nation we can and should develop this educational system to ensure that our people are placed at the helm to drive our development at a much more accelerated pace.
With a background from industry and a sound understanding of the business needs in Botswana, I am certain that no business would like to hire an employee who is not ready to make a positive difference to the business bottom line. No business would like to spend inordinate amount of time and money training someone before getting value for their money. It is a fact that basic education at whatever level is not enough to produce an employee who is industry ready. Basic education is only a foundation on which to build the requisite skills required by industry. Certificates, diplomas, degrees or even doctorate degrees if not accompanied by practical skills for the job are not adequate for any business.
Debswana recognised this long ago. Under the leadership of the late Rre Nchindo, Debswana developed a model where students were sent to some of the best universities and colleges in the world and then given practical training on the job including specialised courses from recognised institutions before being appointed to positions of responsibility. He further developed in house technical colleges and training facilities for focused training. This produced a result oriented and a motivated workforce.
We can learn a lot from the Debswana approach. The practical skills and work ethics by and large are obtained from industry, by practicing on the job and being given relevant training around the specific job by attending specialised courses. Ideally these practical skills should be provided along side the theoretical studies. In most developed or developing countries, they have sandwich courses, where students are given time to work in industry to apply their theoretical knowledge and gain practical experience. The practical training is defined and assessed by both industry and the learning institution.
Our government needs to engage other political parties, business and workers unions. Together they should unpack what education for production entails and map the implementation process. This will require adequate resources and a leadership that will inspire and provide an enabling environment for success. There was talk of lifelong learning during the last election. There should be lifelong learning geared at developing a person to be good at what they do on the job. There is also lifelong learning for developing the individual to be a better member of society.
We want our people to learn specific skills that will help them grow as individuals to avoid the perennial situation of having many ‘educated’ people roaming the streets without jobs and complaints from industry that the education system does not provide the necessary skills. We need to avoid situations were our houses, offices, schools, stadia, airports, dams, roads and industries are built by foreigners while our educated people are in the streets as onlookers. Foreigners are required only to help Batswana where there is need and Batswana doing the work, driving long term strategies and manning key positions.
We must accept that our current approach on human development is flawed. We have unwittingly spent millions if not billions of tax payer’s money annually developing outsiders at the expense of our own people.
Now coming to diamond beneficiation! When you go to a foreign country and ask businessmen to come and set up factories in your country, what do you expect these people to do? Remember, these people are looking for opportunities to expand their businesses and create jobs for their own people. You are therefore inviting them to come and empower themselves and their own people in your country. They will bring their own money, their own people, their own food etc. They will only employ a handful of Batswana in menial jobs. All the money made will be repatriated to their country of origin. After making enough money, they will pack their bags and go back leaving your people jobless! Are you surprised that the factories in Serowe and Gabane have closed?
I listened with keen interest to the minister of mines (Rre Mokaila) last year in America when he was addressing a packed diamond business conference. He did well in putting our country on the world map. He invited businesses to come and set up in Botswana and create jobs for Batswana. This has been on going for years and how many sustainable jobs have been created? How much money has been spent on bringing these companies to Botswana? How much money has been made and repatriated by these companies? Who has really benefited from these ventures?
What progressive countries do is very different. They empower their own people to take advantage of specific economic opportunities in their country and the world around them. They identify international strategic partners who will partner with their own people to take advantage of these economic opportunities. Their focus is as much inward as it is outward so that they are able to effectively play in both local and international markets. They sponsor their own people to work in foreign countries to gain the necessary experience and expertise.
Diamond beneficiation is an area with huge economic potential and social benefits. There are many countries who import raw diamonds for beneficiation. These countries do not have a single diamond mine and have developed their countries with our diamonds and we can learn a lot from them. We should identify these countries, find out how they have developed the industry and show our interest in partnering with them. We assure them that we will provide some incentives for them to set up in Botswana once we are ready to meaningfully partner with them.
We then screen and sponsor our graduates especially the young to go and study and work in the diamond industry in these countries. This is where the best people in the industry are. Our people will work in these industries for a period that will allow them to appreciate the success factors before returning home. Once our people are fully trained in the various diamond business skills (technical skills, financing, leadership, ICT, business ethics etc) and are ready, government can then bring the diamond technical partner to collaborate with government development agency with a view to empower these people to help built and eventually take over.
This will ensure that we have a pool of technocrats and entrepreneurs who can contribute meaningfully in the diamond industry. Without ownership of the diamond industry by locals, the industry will never grow. Eventually all the factories will relocate back to India, Dubai, Israel and other countries. We have a unique opportunity to make our diamond industry world class, but we have to change our approaches.
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