Botswana has moved backwards in terms of increasing the representation of women in political decision-making positions, such as parliament and local government, despite the fact that women in the country constitute the majority of those registered to vote.
According to the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer 2012, much work has to be done if Botswana plans to even meet the 30 percent target set for 2015 by the SADC Gender and Development Alliance Protocol. The Protocol aims to empower women, eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality and equity through the implementation of gender legislation and policies.
As of 2009, only 19 percent of councilors in Botswana were women, 4 percent below the average 23 percent for other SADC countries. SADC countries in general have performed better than other regions in the continent in terms of increasing women’s representation in political decision-making positions.
Representatives of civil society organizations across the Southern African region under the patronage of the Southern African Development community-council of Non Governmental organizations (SADC-CNGO) and Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (SATUCC) as well as the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA) have recently expressed concerns over the fact that Botswana and Mauritius still remain the only two countries in SADC that have not signed the protocol.
Meanwhile, the Barometer reports that in other SADC countries, women are making strides in key decision making positions, a case in point, the appointment of South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the first female head of the African Union.
Earlier this year, Joyce Banda became the first woman president of Malawi, thus making her the first female president in Southern Africa.
Mauritius and Zimbabwe both have women deputy presidents and Zimbabwe remains the only SADC state with a female deputy prime minister.
Local Women’s organizations, such as Gender Links and Botswana Alliance Network, led by BOCONGO, are said to be working on drawing up a strategy to get the Botswana government to sign the Protocol.
In an interview with the Sunday Standard, Keabonye Ntsabane, co-ordinator of Gender Links Botswana, said that even though the Botswana government has not signed the Protocol, they, as gender activists, will continue to engage and encourage discussions on government’s reservations about the protocol and brainstorm a way forward.
“The progress made by Batswana women in other areas of leadership is encouraging, we are certainly making strides in the workplace, as evidenced by the appointments of women in managerial positions. However, it’s worrying how we have so few women in elective positions,” said Ntsabane.
She said that because of the lack of females in elective positions, the interests of women in parliament are overlooked and added that even though government has to improve on the issue of women empowerment within the political sphere, she commends the president of the republic for electing women to fill the positions of specially elected Members of Parliament even though Anna Motlhagodi of BCP was disadvantaged by the fact that the majority of Members of Parliament were from the ruling party.