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Being gay in Francistown is mentally taxing

A cohort of young Trans, gender non-conforming and lesbian individuals based in Francistown were engaged to better understand their lived experiences in the second capital city. In their report, they provided an overview of the unique experiences in relation to belonging and becoming in a region that is underserved, under-resourced and far from the decision making structures in government and civil society.

Over the years of engagement, the cohorts have observed and yearned to formalize themselves. This led to the creation aimed at serving the best interests of gender diverse youth in Botswana. FrancisTrans as an organized group is politically feminist and future thinking in challenging gender norms and safeguarding rights within the municipal and surrounding regions. It was established to empower the individual and supporting those who are hurt.

Francistown is the second largest city in the country that remains underserved due to limited capacity among LGBT led organizations based in the capital city. There is high prevalence of sexual and physical abuse, exasperated by poverty and exclusion in societal, cultural and policy engagements. Although there are pockets of inclusion in mainstream LGBT programming, there remain shortcomings in non-binary and gender non-conforming representation and servicing.

According to Transpose report, men who have sex with men MSM funding landscape within the HIV response reflects an overall neglect of gender diverse provisions inn civil society interventions. Where visibility and voice exists, it is anchored on those with institutional backing, resources and privilege.

‘’These leaves the prevalent public discourse to gender marker changes within strategic litigation work and select issues around mental health. Francistown remains a focus for purposes of the documenting of these experiences. This is intentional in increasing awareness and narratives outside Gaborone.’’

The report underlined that Francistown, or Ghetto as notably called, is not safe or enabling environment for LGBTIQ person in general. Many are reminded that they do not belong in the world. Civil society efforts remain focused on Gaborone, leaving many queer individuals in other regions feeling neglected. This could reflect why society is perceived comparably more ignorant in Francistown than in Gaborone, the report said.

There has been some awareness and change in perceptions over the recent years. This attributed to the increase in information on LGBTIQ. Although allies would be considered an influence, they are perceived a threat to the community. There are many other threats that impede how individuals can freely express themselves, work, and love or simply exist, the report alleged.

Furthermore, the report stressed that gender norms and patriarchy continue to anchor perspectives against gender diverse individuals. Narratives perpetuated in society are on correcting the sexual orientation of lesbian women, which often more masculine women and transgender men are included.

‘’This reflects the high level of ignorance in the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity- even gender expression. This is not exclusive to the LGBTIQ community as subgroups also tend to assume negatively of gender diverse individuals. There is often assumption of confusion and phobia around understanding gender diverse individuals and their relationships,’’ the report emphasized.

It further indicated that it’s common to find a lesbian woman in a relationship with a transgender man, some characterized by ignorance, self-hate and habitual incorrect use of pronouns. Similarly in lesbian relationships, where affirmative use of pronouns is not congruent with gender identity.

Society in Francistown is perceived as rude, the report said. ‘’There are persistent comments when one is in public where non-conforming individuals are often sexualized. Commentary includes inquiries on how community members have sex and that all LGBTIQ are homosexual. This reflects high levels of ignorance on gender diversity and expression. Discrimination is prevalent in any public or private space. This includes restaurants, homes and customary courts.’’

Having to move around for work, school, running errands or simply meeting friends can be mentally taxing in Francistown, the report added. Particularly when one has to use public transport and might end up at the station to connect to another town. There are high risks of violence, hate speech and petty crime. These are not exclusive to sexual or gender diverse individuals, but also women. However, it is further exasperated when one is non-conforming in dress or expression.

The report also stated that the most notable societal space where discrimination is minimal is in tertiary institutions. ‘’There is a contrast to high schools experiences through, as there is no sense of belonging where you are gender diverse. This often adds to the difficulty of navigating peer pressure, societal expectations and pressure to excel in academics. Traditional classroom set ups are a challenge.

Teachers do not want to be questioned. Syllabi is considered dated and narrow, especially around sex education. It is a component of Moral Education as a subject, which by design is viewed as problematic. Historically, there was a public outcry around issues of sexuality and had some aspects of diversity removed from the curricular.’’

Transpose report also underlined that gender diverse or expressive individuals find it difficult to walk in public with their partners. It shared that vulnerabilities are exposed when in public transport; where stigma is pervasive, invasive and prevalent. Instances of physical harassment occur randomly, particularly when one tries to either respond or retaliate to hate speech or discrimination. ‘’Some have been attacked whilst using public transport. They are normally targeted where they stop. This is not exclusive to Francistown, but in Tati Siding, Kasane and Tonota.

In Kasane one was threatened with rape after rude advances were made by a man. Other instances have resulted in transgender individuals being undressed in public. The report further said many experiences shared how the way they dress often incites commentary and inquiry. This is often met with curt responses from gender diverse individuals, the report added.

Gender diverse individuals in Francistown are in constant fear, the report further said. The fear of losing someone loved, being caught by police under any circumstance, ending up in a physical altercation or being discriminated against. ‘’Any space that has a lot of people brings fear. Allergic reactions, intolerant actions and sexual assault are also prominent fears of the community.’’

Money is critical to survival, and the lack of incentives in some jobs or business ideas make it difficult for one to have a dignified life. The report noted that lack of money often results in depression and at times, unlawful means of acquiring it. In some instances, this includes sex work or transactional sex. For others it provides a basis for confidence to navigate society and public life.

Civil society practitioners and health officers have been hostile to community members, the report said. It also said this could reflect why public health facilities are not safe for gender diverse individuals. They remain a challenge for one to present their issues comfortably and without restrictions.

‘’There are fears of being judged, mistreated and ridiculed. This is based on previous unfavorable experiences where health professionals were perceived to not exercise confidentiality or care during consultation. One of the main reasons identified through sensitization workshops is because of a high level of ignorance.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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