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Civil society rebukes Govt for disregarding children

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka on Monday delivered his maiden National budget for the 2020/ 21 financial year following his appointment last year.

However, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) and other civil societies in Botswana feel the national budget continues to ignore critical issues which are key to infusing children’s rights perspectives in budget debates.  The civil society will on the 12th of this month hold a presentation of analysis of the 2020/21 national budget from children’s rights perspective to Members of Parliament. The presentation will reflect on the findings of a detailed analysis of the national budget from children’s rights perspective, with focus on key areas of nutrition, education, health and child protection.

The analysis will also reflect on motions passed by Parliament in recent years and determine the extent to which resources have been provided for the same.  According to a statement from the Civil Society, this engagement was prompted by their realisation of the inadequacy of budgetary allocations to meet children’s needs over the years.

“Civil Society is concerned that children in Botswana continue to face a myriad of challenges due to inadequate resource allocations to the health, education, and social service sectors. Increases in allocations have in most cases remained nominal and hardly beneficial to children in real terms,” reads the statement from the organization.  The civil society also shares that this move has potential to undermine government’s efforts to transform the economy and benefit from the youth demographic dividend as per its aspirations. They are of the view that both transformation and a valuable youth are long term goals that require significant investment on children over time.

To that end, Civil Society Organizations have identified engagements with Members of Parliament as key to infusing children’s rights perspectives in budget debates.  The analysis is intended to be a resource and advocacy tool that will inform Legislators when debating and ultimately passing the budget.  According to the Civil Society, the objective is to increase Members of Parliament’s understanding of issues affecting children in Botswana and how the national budget can respond to them.

This will also incorporate children’s rights perspectives into the national budget and empower Members of Parliament to pass a child-friendly budget. On 12th February 2020, Civil Society Organisations will host Members of Parliament to a presentation of this analysis under the theme: “Harnessing an invaluable youth demographic dividend – critical reflections on the 2020 national budget and beyond.”

Contacted for comment Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Botho Seboko said there is a need to adequately bring to the floor of Parliament motions and debates that speak to challenges faced by children.
“Currently there is a growing under performance of results across the country and that is a major concern. Overall the societal constraint of children are at stake”. Seboko said there are children staying in dormitories that are distasteful, shortage of classrooms and books among others. “As civil society we are of the view that legislators are not making enough noise about these issues”, he said.

BOCONGO CEO said going forward as the civil society, they will be selecting particular topics on national interests such as infrastructure where there are high reported cases of corruption in the way tenders are awarded. He said they will also be looking at other sectors such as the creative industry. “Overall we are happy about the posture of the budget, it speaks to fighting corruption which is at the moment besieging the country”.

Seboko also took the opportunity to announce that as the Civil Society, they will be signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in their bid to continue helping government to fight crime.  “We want to take a step further to shine the light in the dark and we will be engaging all our members throughout the country,” he said. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) established in 1995, to coordinate the work of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Botswana.

The government of Botswana, through the National NGO Policy (2012) recognizes the important role played by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in national development. The NGO Policy provides for a coordinated approach to the implementation of the national development plans and priorities as well as enhancing communication and partnerships between government and CSOs. BOCONGO has over the past 21 years created a platform for CSOs in Botswana to engage in processes of development and policy formulation.

BOCONGO works with NGOs and other stakeholders to strengthen the NGO sector through coordinating the sector’s contributions to the development of the country and beyond; delivering capacity development; facilitating platforms for the effective communication between members and key stakeholders; and increasing capacity of members to be effective advocates for policy development both individually and as a sector.

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.

 

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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.

 

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