Authorities have been cautioned that the world has become too complex and interconnected that it can no longer be permissible to look at problems in isolation from each other.
Thus, “when a mother dies, when an orphaned child does not get the food or education he needs, when a young girl grows into a life without opportunities, the consequences extend beyond the existence of these individuals”.
Argentina Matavel, United Nations Population Fund Representative in Botswana, stated that, in responding to the economic crisis, due recognition must be given to the importance of empowering women so that they can be able to withstand the pressures and challenges that come with the crisis.
“We all know too well that in hard times, social sectors such as health and education are the first to suffer budget cuts,” she said.
There is also the ensuring increase in maternal and infant deaths, with more girls forced out of school by lack of funds, left only to care for their loved ones and hence triggering a vicious cycle of more families plunging deeper into poverty and increase in violence against woman and girls.
For this reason, according to Matavel, investing in women and girls will set the stage not only for economic recovery, but also for long term economic growth that reduces inequality and poverty.
In addition, concern was registered to the effect that, of all the eight Millennium Development Goals,MDG5 (Reducing Material Deaths) is the one lagging the furthest behind.
“Yet it is one of the easiest to achieve, especially in countries like Botswana where most people have access to a health facility,” argued the UNFPA official.
Notwithstanding Matavel’s statement, the rights and protection of women in Botswana are still considered a matter of goodwill by Government.
This is confirmed by Botswana’s refusal to ratify the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, which seeks to empower vulnerable groups, regardless of their sexual orientation.
In this respect, the Protocol categorically makes the point that when it comes to the ‘vulnerable’ signatory, countries must understand that they cannot escape the need for positive discrimination in favour of women and girls, if they really mean to achieve gender balance, in their developmental initiatives.
Responding to remarks at the NGO week recently by the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO) concerning Botswana’s position, the vice President of Botswana, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe, expressed Government reservations regarding the signing of the Protocol.
“If anyone were to take the Protocol and go through it, they would clearly see a number of clauses, many for that matter, that really make it difficult for Government to append her signature,” said Merafhe.
Maungo Mooki, Director of Lifeline, and one of the panelists at the commemoration of World Population day, which took place at the UN Place on July 13, pointed out that it was in the interest of any country in the SADC region to sign and implement the Protocol.
Given that, culturally, when a daughter, sister or aunt is unmarried or divorced and has no income, they become the responsibility of their fathers, brothers and uncles.
The same applies to their children.
Thus, “If only those in power were to see things in that light, then they would say, “If not for the country, let’s do it for ourselves,” argued Mooki.
Mooki expressed the view that, over and above the fact that women remain breadwinners in many households, the continued dependence of the country on imports from outside countries for everything ranging from food to services, ensures that, along with the imported products, also comes those countries’ inflation.
It is for this reason that, in a holistic way, efforts at addressing the challenges presented by the world wide economic downturn must recognize the connectedness of economic growth to human rights, especially the right of women to be economically independent.
According to Mooki, this means more people taking part in the development of a country and being productive, economically.