‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ If we arm ourselves with knowledge you will know the truth. Without knowledge the truth will most likely elude us. With knowledge we shall know whether we are being misinformed or we are being informed appropriately.
Being informed appropriately means being given knowledge that empowers us to understand issues around us in order for us to make informed choices. With this knowledge, as an individual, you are able to discern the truth and take appropriate actions.
I have posted a number of articles on this publication and have received overwhelming encouragement to share more. I will continue to do so as a way of giving back to my beloved fellow citizens, some will criticize and some will learn something. It is all well as we all learn something as we begin to engage each other positively.
I tumbled upon a book by some writer, Allen White entitled “The Great Hope’’. I immediately thought of the great hope that I have for our country. The great hope that one day this country will be able to reach its full potential in terms of development. The great hope that one day all our people will be engaged meaningfully in the transformation of their country.
The great hope that one day the rich resources that God has richly bestowed upon this country with will be enjoyed fully by all our people. The great hope that one day the leadership of this country will understand that they are servants and not masters of the people. The great hope that one day our leaders will understand that each person has a specific role to play in the development of the country…no one is a mistake!
As I went through the pages of this book, my attention was caught by a chapter entitled “Why there is suffering?” What suffering; I thought to myself! Yes, there is suffering in my country. The gross unemployment and under-employment that should have long been eliminated is painful. The pain has made some of the unemployed accept that it is impossible for them to be employed – they have now accepted this as their fate. Some have even been removed from the list of the unemployed to perhaps make the statistics look better? We have graduates who are roaming the streets with nothing meaningful to do.
We have interns who are filing and making tea in offices with no prospects for permanent jobs. We have created abject poverty amongst our people which we say we will eliminate but without putting in place any plausible framework for sustainability.
We have suffering in many dark corners of this republic, the elderly, the disabled, the sick in hospitals with inadequate care systems, the children who walk long distances to school and being taught under trees in bad weather with inadequate clothing, the children whose education condemns them to a life without any prospects for advancement – yes we have suffering, teachers and officers with inadequate accommodation, the starving wages imposed on the majority of our employees, yes the list is long…there is suffering.
The people subjected to unfair treatment by authorities because ‘ke bo ise mang’. Corruption, nepotism, favouritism in high places, yes there is suffering. The people who are subjected to this suffering eventually give up hope of ever getting out of the suffering and some resort to some undesirable means to survive or to withstand the suffering. This is unnecessary suffering that must be ended by us!
I would like to paraphrase a portion I read from this chapter- ‘why there is suffering’. This article is really meant for deep introspection within our opposition parties. God’s plan of hope and prosperity for this country will be done through the opposition parties of this country. So it is imperative for the opposition parties to introspect and build a formidable force for change.
‘Before the entrance of sin there was peace and joy throughout the universe. Love for God was supreme; love for one another was impartial. The law of love was the foundation of God’s government, the happiness of all the created beings depended on their acceptance of the principles of justice and righteousness. God took no pleasure in forced allegiance and therefore granted all free will, so that they may render Him voluntary service. However, some highly placed individual chose to pervert this freedom and sin entered the world.
Leaving his place in the presence of God, this individual went forth to spread discontent amongst the angels. Mysteriously concealing his real purpose he endevoured to excite dissatisfaction concerning laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they imposed unnecessary restraints.
He urged them to obey only the dictates of their own will. He claimed he was not aiming for self exaltation but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants of heaven so that they may attain higher level of existence. He was not degraded from his privileged position in heaven, even when he began presenting false claims before the angels.
Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. At first he did not understand the real selfish nature of his feeling, but as his dissatisfaction was proved to be unfounded, he was convinced that the divine claims were true and just and that he ought to acknowledge that before all heavens. However, pride forbade him from submission. He instead, resolved that he had no need for repentance and thus fully committed himself to continued confrontation with his maker.
He intensified his deception to secure the sympathy of the angels. All those who did not agree with him; he accused of indifference to the interests of the heavenly beings. It became his policy to manipulate the angels with defiant and subtle arguments concerning the purpose of the maker.
By artful perversion he cast doubt upon every statement made by his maker. His position gave him power and influence and many were induced to unite with him. He remained stubborn, defiant and blasphemously claiming to be an innocent victim. He was eventually banished from heaven for ever – he is now a lost soul in the wilderness.’
I would like to challenge our political parties especially the opposition to look at the above story closely and ask themselves this question. Who are these men who have allowed and continue to allow the perpetuation of this suffering in this land of plenty and what should be done to get our people out of this suffering? I want the leadership and the general members of society to look in the mirror and examine themselves and see if there are not partly or entirely responsible for this suffering. Have we not like the one in the text above deviated from the cause to liberate our people.
Instead we have misled our people and turned them against each other by cunningly undermining others and claiming supremacy! Have we been honest? Are we pursuing our own interests at the expense of our people? How long has this been going on? Why did we ever allow ourselves to have more than one opposition political party in this country with such a small population? Where there any irreconcilable differences within the opposition ranks or where there just immaterial personal differences and preferences that took centre stage? We need to reconcile our differences and become one big force for change. No one should be ‘banished for ever’.
We need to get our people to understand the issues so that they are not easily deceived by those self seeking individuals who want power at any cost for the sole purpose of advancing their own interests and prestige like the one in the text? Hitler once said if you tell people lies all the time eventually they will accept these lies as the truth. RB, BTV and Botswana daily news paper are used as government propaganda machines meant to prevent the real suffering in the country from being reported and only giving a glowing picture of what the government is doing.
The president goes around the country at our expense giving out blankets, radios and houses to deliberately present a false picture to our people and the world that he cares. The unsuspecting public out there and the international community believe this propaganda while the truth and the reality on the ground is severely compromised.
It is therefore important that all those who can see through this musk, must work together as one to fight the injustices imposed on our people. Working together will have the desired effect of getting more with less! The combined resources in terms of financial, manpower and intellectual capacity will multiply. The reach to our people will be much wider. The support from local and international interests will multiply. The ability to remove the musk for the truth and the reality in our country to be reflected correctly will be magnified.
The elections are gone and the people have spoken and spoken very clearly. True leaders have heard the people and will honour the voice of the people in good time. Those who still want to justify a ‘multiparty’ democracy as opposed to a ‘two’ party democracy are still missing the point. Batswana have spoken; they want a ‘two’ party democracy.
They want one voice against the ruling party. This one voice is the voice of the government in waiting. Those 800,000 people who did not vote will vote during the next election to support a ‘two’ party democracy. These people are saying, ‘we are too small a population to be fantacising about multiparty democracy’. They are saying, ‘we need only two parties, so swallow your pride, work together and we will support you.’
Have it ever occurred to you that the multiplicity of parties was encouraged and promoted because it meant that the ruling party will be kept in power for ever? These 800,000 people who did not vote are aware of it. They know that their vote will not make any difference in the outcome of the election if we have multiple parties selling the same election package. One can only logically assume that only those leaders, blinded by their own desire for top leadership positions will continue to advocate for divisions within the opposition ranks, despite the loud voice coming from the just ended election.
So it is time for the opposition to come together as one, to fight as one, to speak with one voice, for one purpose only, that of truly liberating our people from the shackles of the current misguided and mischievous government.
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