“I don’t think I would have ever allowed my wife to use as many family resources as I used to further my political career,” joked Dumelang Saleshando, leader of the Botswana Congress Party as he gave a speech at the SADC Secretariat last Friday while representing his party at this year’s annual International Women’s Day.
The day was commemorated under the theme ‘Equality for women is progress for all’ and ended a week’s seminar focusing on promoting gender awareness in Botswana and the rest of the SADC region.
While acknowledging that he too may have taken part in denying the women in his life a level playing field in decision making, Saleshando said it is critical for women to be given the same economical empowerment as men to pursue their desired objectives.
He cautioned that although women deserve to be encouraged to stand their ground, they should refrain from bringing their soft feminine side as they go into the often rough and tumble of politics.
The Gender Links Coordinator for Botswana, Keabonye Ntsabane, congratulated SADC on behalf of her organisation on their attempt to achieve their 50:50 target of women in politics and decision making by 2015.
She put emphasis on equality as she recognised women and called on them to be fully committed too in their endeavors. She gave an example of the Setswana proverb ‘Mosadi ke thari ya sechaba’ saying that it is reflective of Botswana’s culture that women were always meant to assume significant roles in their communities regardless of their background.
“Though there are a lot of women in decision making positions in Botswana, it is still not enough because this only seems to be the case mostly in the private sector. Political parties should also create policies that accommodate women being given decision making positions as long as they display potential and commitment,” she said, adding that women tend to play key roles in the development of societies right from the family unit.
Ntsabane stressed how sad it is that in this country women do not have enough representation in parliament.
Among the documents that were presented to the public during the commemoration was the Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit which is a step-by-step guide to applying gender awareness in the everyday workplace.
Everyone present at the event was encouraged to access the toolkit and use it to ensure that their respective work environments are gender sensitive and responsive.
Head of Gender Unit at SADC Secretariat, Magdeline Mathiba-Madibela, said the main aim of the toolkit is to stimulate critical thinking on the gender planning concepts and to appreciate key meanings in the gender agenda.
“The focus has now shifted from just women to gender because gender is not only about women. We need to achieve that much needed balance that also appreciates men in issues of gender. The time has come to integrate gender into our work spaces as an instruction from summit so that it is mandatory,” she said.
The theme for this year cemented the importance of working gender planning concepts into everyone’s daily working life throughout the nation.
It was intended to identify key issues surrounding gender with the purpose of addressing them.
It seeks to assess workplaces for men and women to audit their gender awareness or blindness, neutrality as well as gender budgeting for the benefit of all equally. The theme is also in pursuit of disregarding gender blind protocols in sectors like agriculture and mining and dictates that they integrate such protocols from the grassroots.
It’s target is to tackle the real needs of the people, involving women, men and children alike during consultations with the objective of bettering the livelihoods of all.
Throughout the awareness campaign, the words of the former Secretary General for SADC, Kofi Anan were echoed: “There is no tool for development more effective than gender equality and the empowerment of women.”