Botswana has been commended for its sterling record in women empowerment and promotion of gender equality. A report on Botswana’s economic outlook for the year 2014, compiled by the African Development Bank, United Nations Development Program and the OECD, states that the constitution of Botswana and national Vision 2016 guarantee equality of all persons irrespective of gender.
The report states that one of the major milestones in Botswana’s stride for gender equality and women empowerment was the 2004 Abolition of Marital Power Act, which gave men and women equal rights in marriage, property holding, domicile, and guardianship of minor children. Botswana also recorded significant progress on gender equality in education, leading to parity in female and male enrolment in primary and secondary education, as well as in adult literacy rates. Botswana has put in place legal and policy frameworks to institutionalize gender equality and child protection. Statistics show that more than 45 percent of senior positions in the public service are held by women.
Top positions in parastatals and the private sector are also occupied by women. In Botswana, the Speaker of the national assembly is a woman, the governor of the reserve bank is a woman, and there are several directors and permanent secretaries who are women. Women also hold key positions in large private sector companies.
However, Botswana has been lambasted for the low representation of women in political office. Statistics show that only 6.6 per cent of MPs are women, while 17.4 per cent of cabinet ministers and assistant ministers are female. At local government level statistics show that an average 20.6 percent of councilors are female.
“Thus the country ranks lowest in SADC in this aspect, thereby underlining the need for strong advocacy and progressive legislative reforms,” read the report.
On issues of health, the report states that access to antenatal or delivery care and family planning services have significantly improved as a result of availability of health service facilities. The maternal mortality ratio declined from 326 per 100 000 births in 1991 to 198 per 100 000 births in 2008.
“However, this is still high and is one of the MDG targets that are unlikely to be achieved,” read the report.
In addition, significant challenges remain in reducing violence against women and increasing their political representation. President Ian Khama has also called for the development of a comprehensive National Response to gender based violence. Further, the legal aid service is meant to facilitate women’s access to justice, including survivors of gender based violence. While Botswana has made great strides in fighting gender based violence, the statistics of GBV are still high. A study commissioned by government and Gender Links last year revealed that prevalence of violence against women stood at 67 percent in Botswana.