Gender inequality is said to be a disturbing factor driving HIV in the sub-Saharan Africa region. This was said by Anne Githuku-shongwe, Regional Director of UNAIDS, when speaking at the commemoration of International Women’s Day at the Pan-African Parliament.
According to Githuku-shongwe, women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 63% of the region’s new infections in 2021.
TEENAGE PREGNANCY RELATIVELY HIGH
“HIV infections are three times higher among adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) than among males of the same age. This HIV and AIDS outlook including the teenage pregnancy crisis is driven by intersecting forms of inequalities including gender and socio-economic inequalities. In this region, our overall weighted pregnancy prevalence among adolescent girls and young women (10-24 years) is alarmingly high at 25%.”
It is said that in Uganda, more than 350 000 young women fell pregnant following lockdowns in 2020. Kenya recorded more than 330 000 teenage pregnancies in the same year. According to the Regional Director, many of these girls lacked access to information, commodities and services to protect themselves.
GENDER BASED VIOLENCE ALSO A PROBLEM
Githuku-shongwe further indicated that adolescent girls and women are disproportionately affected by HIV because of sexual and gender-based violence, harmful socio-cultural practices as well as laws and policies that limit access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV prevention and treatment services to youth.
STRATEGIES TO BE IMPLEMENTED
in order to curb the spread of HIV among young people, Githuku-shongwe emphasized that there is a need for interventions and strategies to be implemented.
“It is important to advocate for and enact laws and polices that provide a protective and enabling environment for youth and adolescent girls. We need laws on age consent, age of marriage to be reviewed to ensure the youth access both SRHR and HIV services. Also, laws regarding access to education and return back to school policies will have a positive impact on adolescent girls and young women.
She told Pan-African Parliament that their oversight role in holding governments accountable for the implementation of revised and progressive laws is critical, further saying “We need your support in influencing and ensuring budgets are directed to social sectors (education and health) that hold potential to shift the dynamics for our youth.”
“Education is a powerful equalizer and it can help us right this injustice. If we let our girls stay in school to finish secondary, their risk of getting HIV can be reduced by up to 50%. If in the school we also teach them about their bodies, we call it sexuality education, how to protect themselves that risk can be reduced further.”
LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT GIRLS
Githuku-shongwe stressed that if harnessed effectively, connectivity and openly accessible digital teaching and learning resources can contribute to the transformation and democratization of education.
She noted that access to new prevention technologies such as long-acting PrEP that has been rolled out in Botswana, Uganda and Zimbabwe should be expanded to the entire region. “We may advocate for those to be rolled out without disparity between rich and poorer countries.”
Emerging technologies such as the vaginal ring, need to be supported to increase efficacy and accessibility, she said.
“Preventive benefits of antiretroviral treatment need to be promoted and understood. Platforms such as social media should be considered powerful and accessible tools to raise awareness of HIV prevention and care in our region.”
LEVERAGING GENDER-EQUITABLE DIGITAL AGENDA
UNAIDS Regional Director reiterated that AIDS is not over, stressing that there is need for political commitment to leverage a gender-equitable digital agenda to make sure AIDS is ended by 2030.
“To be on track to end AIDS and protect global health security, a dramatic acceleration in progress is needed by harnessing all the digital tools and innovation available to address the inequalities. These are inequalities that prevent people from receiving HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. Policymakers need to strengthen their understanding on the pandemic at the local level and focus on eliminating the inequalities that are slowing progress against the HIV pandemic.”
There is also need to realize human rights and gender equality, said the UNAIDS boss, Githuku-shongwe. She said human rights of women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive rights, must be upheld and violence and harmful social norms abolished.
“Punitive, discriminatory and counterproductive policies, particularly against vulnerable key populations such as sex workers, gay men and people who inject drugs, must be removed and reformed.”
19 Bokamoso Private Hospital nurses graduate at Lenmed Nursing College
The graduation of 19 nurses from Bokamoso Private Hospital at Lenmed Nursing College marks a significant milestone in their careers. These nurses have successfully completed various short learning programs, including Adult Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Nursing Care, Anaesthetic & Recovery Room Nursing, Anaesthetic Nursing, and Recovery Room Nursing. The ceremony, held in Gaborone, was a testament to their hard work and dedication.
Lenmed Nursing College, a renowned healthcare group with a presence in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Ghana, has been instrumental in providing quality education and training to healthcare professionals. The Group Head of Operations, Jayesh Parshotam, emphasized the importance of upskilling nurses, who are at the forefront of healthcare systems. He also expressed his appreciation for the partnerships with Bokamoso Private Hospital, the Ministry of Health, and various health training institutes in Botswana.
Dr. Morrison Sinvula, a consultant from the Ministry of Health, commended Lenmed Health and Lenmed Nursing College for their commitment to the education and training of these exceptional nurses. He acknowledged their guidance, mentorship, and support in shaping the nurses’ careers and ensuring their success. Dr. Sinvula also reminded the graduates that education does not end here, as the field of healthcare is constantly evolving. He encouraged them to remain committed to lifelong learning and professional development, embracing new technologies and staying updated with the latest medical advancements.
Dr. Gontle Moleele, the Superintendent of Bokamoso Private Hospital, expressed her excitement and pride in the graduating class of 2023. She acknowledged the sacrifices made by these individuals, who have families and responsibilities, to ensure their graduation. Dr. Moleele also thanked Lenmed Nursing College for providing this opportunity to the hospital’s nurses, as it will contribute to the growth of the hospital.
The certificate recipients from Bokamoso Private Hospital were recognized for their outstanding achievements in their respective programs. Those who received the Cum Laude distinction in the Adult Intensive Care Unit program were Elton Keatlholwetse, Lebogang Kgokgonyane, Galaletsang Melamu, Pinkie Mokgosi, Ofentse Seboletswe, Gorata Basupi, Bareng Mosala, and Justice Senyarelo. In the Emergency Nursing Care program, Atlanang Moilwa, Bakwena Moilwa, Nathan Nhiwathiwa, Mogakolodi Lesarwe, Modisaotsile Thomas, and Lorato Matenje received the Cum Laude distinction. Kelebogile Dubula and Gaolatlhe Sentshwaraganye achieved Cum Laude in the Anaesthetic & Recovery Room Nursing program, while Keletso Basele excelled in the Anaesthetic Nursing program. Mompoloki Mokwaledi received recognition for completing the Recovery Room Nursing program.
In conclusion, the graduation of these 19 nurses from Bokamoso Private Hospital at Lenmed Nursing College is a testament to their dedication and commitment to their profession. They have successfully completed various short learning programs, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their respective fields. The collaboration between Lenmed Nursing College, Bokamoso Private Hospital, and the Ministry of Health has played a crucial role in their success. As they embark on their careers, these nurses are encouraged to continue their professional development and embrace new advancements in healthcare.
BNF secures 15 constituencies in UDC coalition, wants more
The Botswana National Front (BNF) has recently announced that they have already secured 15 constituencies in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, despite ongoing negotiations. This revelation comes as the BNF expresses its dissatisfaction with the current government and its leadership.
The UDC, which is comprised of the BNF, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Alliance for Progressives (AP), and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), is preparing for the upcoming General Elections. However, the negotiations to allocate constituencies among the involved parties are still underway. Despite this, the BNF Chairman, Patrick Molotsi, confidently stated that they have already acquired 15 constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally.
Molotsi’s statement reflects the BNF’s long-standing presence in many constituencies across Botswana. With a strong foothold in these areas, it is only natural for the BNF to seek an increase in the number of constituencies they represent. This move not only strengthens their position within the UDC coalition but also demonstrates their commitment to serving the interests of the people.
In a press conference, BNF Secretary General, Ketlhafile Motshegwa, expressed his discontent with the current government leadership. He criticized the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for what he perceives as a disregard for the well-being of the Batswana people. Motshegwa highlighted issues such as high unemployment rates and shortages of essential medicines as evidence of the government’s failure to address the needs of its citizens.
The BNF’s dissatisfaction with the current government is a reflection of the growing discontent among the population. The Batswana people are increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and the failure to address pressing issues. The BNF’s assertion that the government is playing with the lives of its citizens resonates with many who feel neglected and unheard.
The BNF’s acquisition of 15 constituencies, even before the negotiations have concluded, is a testament to their popularity and support among the people. It is a clear indication that the Batswana people are ready for change and are looking to the BNF to provide the leadership they desire.
As the negotiations continue, it is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the interests of the people. The allocation of constituencies should be done in a fair and transparent manner, ensuring that the voices of all citizens are represented. The BNF’s success in securing constituencies should serve as a reminder to the other parties of the need to listen to the concerns and aspirations of the people they aim to represent.
In conclusion, the BNF’s acquisition of 15 constituencies, despite ongoing negotiations, highlights their strong presence and support among the Batswana people. Their dissatisfaction with the current government leadership reflects the growing discontent in the country. As the UDC coalition prepares for the upcoming General Elections, it is crucial for all parties to prioritize the needs and aspirations of the people. The BNF’s success should serve as a reminder of the importance of listening to the voices of the citizens and working towards a better future for Botswana.
Children’s summit to discuss funding of NGOS
One of the key issues that will be discussed by the Childrens’ Summit, which will be hosted by Childline Botswana Trust on 28th – 30th November in Gaborone, will be the topical issue of financing and strengthening of civil society organizations.
A statement from Childline Botswana indicates that the summit will adopt a road map for resourcing the children’s agenda by funding organizations. It will also cover issues relating to child welfare and protection; aimed at mobilizing governments to further strengthen Child Helplines; as well as sharing of emerging technologies to enhance the protection of Children and promotion of their rights.
According to Gaone Chepete, Communications Officer at Childline Botswana, the overall objective of the summit is to provide a platform for dialogue and engagement towards promoting practices and policies that fulfil children’s rights and welfare.
“Child Helplines in the region meet on a bi-annual basis to reflect on the state of children; evaluate their contribution and share experiences and best practice in the provision of services for children,” said Chepete.
The financing of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by the state or its functionaries has generated mixed reactions from within the civil society space, with many arguing that it threatened NGOs activism and operational independence.
In February 2019, University of Botswana academic Kenneth Dipholo released a paper titled “State philanthropy: The demise of charitable organizations in Botswana,” in which he faulted then President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama for using charity for political convenience and annexing the operational space of NGOs.
“Civil society is the domain in which individuals can exercise their rights as citizens and set limits to the power of the state. The state should be developing capable voluntary organizations rather than emaciating or colonizing them by usurping their space,” argued Dipholo.
He further argued that direct involvement of the state or state president in charity breeds unhealthy competition between the state itself and other organizations involved in charity. Under these circumstances, he added, the state will use charity work to remain relevant to the ordinary people and enhance its visibility at the expense of NGOs.
“A consequence of this arrangement is that charitable organizations will become affiliates of the state. This stifles innovation in the sense that it narrows the ability of charitable organizations to think outside the box. It also promotes mono-culturalism, as the state could support only charitable organizations that abide by its wishes,” said Dipholo.
In conclusion, Dipholo urged the state to focus on supporting NGOs so that they operate in a system that combines philanthropic work and state welfare programs.
He added that state philanthropy threatens to relegate and render charitable organizations virtually irrelevant and redundant unless they re-engineer themselves.
Another University of Botswana (UB) academic, Professor Zibani Maundeni, opined that politics vitally shape civil society interaction; as seen in the interactions between the two, where there is mutual criticism in each other’s presence.
Over the years, NGOs have found themselves grappling with dwindling financial resources as donors ran out of money in the face of increased competition for financing. Many NGOs have also been faulted for poorly managing their finances because of limited strategic planning and financial management expertise. This drove NGOs to look to government for funding; which fundamentally altered the relationships between the two. The end result was a complete change in the operational culture of NGOs, which diminished their social impact and made them even more fragile. Increased government control through contract clauses also reduced NGOs activism and autonomy.
However, others believe that NGOs and government need each other, especially in the provision of essential services like child welfare and protection. Speaking at the Civil Society Child Rights Convention in 2020, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Setlhabelo Modukanele said government considers NGOs as critical partners in development.
“We recognize the role that NGOs play a critical role in the country’s development agenda,” said Modukanele.