Friday, June 21, 2024

Botswana attempts to narrow gender inequality gap

On Tuesday last week, the global community commemorated the International Women’s Day with the theme of “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World”.

In a statement released on the day, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner called for an end to the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls adding that “we must breakdown the deep-seated historic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers that prevent women from taking their seat at the decision-making table to make sure that resources are more equitably distributed”.

“At the current stage of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government, for example, will take another 130 years to achieve. To disrupt the status quo, UNDP is working to amplify women’s voices and promote their participation and leadership in public institutions, parliaments, the judiciary, and the private sector. Without support, some 180 different measures – from electoral quotas to gender-smart business policies – were out in place by countries across the globe in 2019,” states the UNDP statement.

Like most developing countries Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, Botswana grapples with gender inequality gap, which stood at 28 percent in 2020. Ranked 73/153 with a gender gap of 0.709 by the 2020 World Economic Forum, Botswana had by 2017 managed to close its gender gap index by 71 percent.

In 2020, SSA, which was ranked sixth out of eight regions and ranked above South Asia and Middle East and North Africa (0.611), had only closed 68 percent of its gender gap. It will take 95 years, according to the World Economic Forum 2020, to close the gap.

Botswana is among SSA countries which are yet to close their remaining gender gaps. Although Botswana’s trend is sloping upwards it is notable that the country’s gender scores have marginally increased after 2013.

Pre-2013, the average gender score was 0.6851 (with a remaining gender gap of 31 percent) and this marginally increased to 0.7145 post-2013 (with a remaining gender gap of 29 percent).

According to a 2020 research study conducted and authored by Professor Emmanuel Botlhale titled: “Gender Equality in Botswana: An Unfulfilled Agenda”, Botswana had a remaining gender gap of 28 percent according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The remaining gap was a little shy of SSA’s average remaining gender gap of 32 percent.

Thus, under the review period (2006 – 2017), it can be concluded that “like a majority of the SSA countries, Botswana had a remaining gender gap”. In 2020, Botswana was ranked 73/153 countries with a gender gap index score of 0.709 (World Economic Forum 2020). Thus, it has closed 71 percent of its gender gap.

Finally, between 2006 and 2020, there was an improvement of 0.019 (0.709 – 0.690), or 2.75 percent, in the gender gap index score and Professor Botlhale is of the view that “this low statistic could be improved”.

Botswana’s Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2017 was 0.717 as measured by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The HDI value placed the country in the high human development category. It is notable that the “HDI masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level”, hence the need to adjust the measurement.

The inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI) corrects this masking because it expresses the HDI discounted for inequalities. Botswana’s HDI was 0.698, putting the country in the medium human development category (UNDP 2016). On the face value, Botswana did well HDI-wise but this situation assumed a different dimension when the HDI was inequality-adjusted. When the value was discounted for inequality, the HDI fell to 0.433.

“This translated into a loss of 37.9 percent due to the inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices. Thus, while the non-equality adjusted HDI was 0.698, this paled down to 0.433 when the same was inequality-adjusted. Since nothing has changed regarding gender justice, it can be inferred that the IHDI has not fared better post-2015”, argues Professor Botlhale in his research study.

According to his paper, the HDI can be sex-disaggregated to compute a Gender Development Index (GDI). The GDI is a ratio of female to male HDI. In 2017, the female HDI value for Botswana was 0.707 in contrast with 0.725 for males.

It is apparent that while Botswana had a high HDI in 2017, “there was gender disparity as shown by the GDI)”. As of the 2018 survey period, the female HDI value was 0.723 in contrast with 0.731 for males. Notably, Botswana had a high HDI of 0.728, which “statistic was weighed down by GDI issues”.

In yet another dimension in his research study, Professor Botlhale explains that at the end of 2015, Botswana was ranked 55 out of 145 countries in the African continent. The raking was low compared to some of its SADC neighbours of Namibia (16th), South Africa (17th) and Mozambique (27th).

The African Development Bank’s Gender Equality Index in terms of overall performance on gender equality in 2015, ranked Botswana among the top 10. However, it was not a vital performer. The top five performers were South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia, Mauritius and Malawi.

“While Botswana was among the top 10 performers in terms of overall performance on gender inequality, its record was mixed. While it was among the top 10 (4/10)m in economic performance and human development, it was not part of the top 10 regarding law and institutions” argues Professor Botlhale in his research paper.

Professor Botlhale argues that gender equality is an important element of a suite of human rights. “A self-respecting democracy must mainstream gender issues into the architecture of human rights as either national objectives or directive principles of state policy.  

“Some population sub-groups, particularly women and the girl child, suffer gender inequality. While gender equality is a worldwide problem, the developing world, particularly SSA, disproportionately presents this malaise.

The policy response to this malaise is a raft of gender equality policies and related instruments. Overall, in the developing world, particularly, the record is mixed; success and failure, with a preponderance of the latter”, submits Professor Botlhale adding that “the gender gaps mean that Botswana is failing to deliver on the gender equality agenda, hence, this is an unfulfilled agenda”.

Professor Botlhale also found that there is no correlation between signing international gender instruments and passing of gender policies on the one hand and realization of gender equality on the other.

What is gender equality?  In a 2014 Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) policy brief titled “Gender and Political Representation in Botswana”, the author, Keneilwe Mooketsane defines as the measurable equal representation of women and men.

Contrary to the common misconception “gender does not necessarily mean that men and women are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment”. Gender equality is perceived as an end in itself as it is a human right; and as a means to an end, it is also included as one the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, gender equality has been linked to strong governance, economic growth, improved and education and better distribution of resources.

Mooketsane said when compared to men, women in Botswana are disadvantaged due to traditional roles and perceptions. As a result, women suffer various forms of discrimination, inequality and sometimes exclusion.

This has created grounds for constitutional and policy changes to empower and include women in political and economic processes. While women for the majority of the country’s population, their representation in decision making bodies is not proportional to their numerical strength.

Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. It is vital to note that “equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female”.

Gender equality denotes women as having the same opportunities in life as men, including the ability to participate in the public sphere. Gender equity on the other hand denotes the equivalence in life outcomes for women and men, recognizing their different needs and interests and distribution of power and resources.

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