Newly elected speaker of parliament Margaret Nasha could not wait to get out of her parliamentary robes before she launched a scathing attack on President Ian Khama’s administration for its deplorable record on women empowerment.
Nasha on Wednesday poked holes on the Khama administration, saying that the new government, which by then was hardly two days old, has blatantly derailed from its predecessors’ policy of women empowerment.
Speaking at the landmark occasion at which she was ordained as Botswana’s first woman speaker, Nasha scantily hid her disdain and disapproval of Khama’s special nominees, saying that it worked to contract the already depleted number of women in parliament, and is a retrogression of the gains made by the previous regime.
“You have just made history by electing me as the first woman speaker of the national assembly in this country and I am proud to be that pioneer. I cannot, however, pretend it is not a bitter sweet moment for me in view of the fact that there are only four women members in this tenth parliament of sixty-two, including the president,” she said.
Still reeling from the lackluster performance of women candidates in the October 16 general elections, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s women‘s wing were expecting Khama to nominate more women into parliament.
But they were dealt a devastating blow when Khama reneged on the party’s principle of women empowerment, choosing only two women candidates out of the four eligible nominees.
A former beneficiary of the special nominations, Nasha said: “Four women against fifty eight men is indeed an unfortunate reversal of the gains we made in women’s representation in politics and gender equality generally.
There are many capable women out there and I sincerely hope that my election will encourage the electorate and political parties to ensure that this trend is reversed next time around.”
Former president Festus Mogae is largely considered a champion of women empowerment, as it was during his reign that women representation in parliament and in top positions in government and the private sector swelled to unprecedented levels.
It was Mogae who nominated 3 women, Margaret Nasha, Moggie Mbaakanyi and Sheila Tlou into parliament, and also appointed a female governor of the Bank of Botswana and a female attorney general, a move that was applauded by political analysts and women organizations throughout the country.
However, many feel that Khama diverted from the modus operandi, removing Mbaakanyi from cabinet, and lately disappointing the womenfolk who had hoped that their dismal performance during the general elections would be reversed through special nomination to parliament.
When commenting on the issue, Emang Basadi Executive Director, Idah Mokereitane, agreed with Nasha, saying that more women should have been nominated into parliament, especially as it has emerged that the current set up of political parties is not conducive for women to succeed in politics.
She urged political parties to empower women and elevate them into position of power at party level so that they can be able to compete with their male counterparts at national level.
“Even if the number of specially nominated MPs could have been increased to eight and, such nominations reserved exclusively for women, we would still be a far cry from reaching the international quota of women representation in parliament. It is against this backdrop that we call on political parties to speak in one voice and appoint a convincing number of the womenfolk to position of esteem,” she said.
Mokereitane said that she was stunned on Wednesday when legislators across the political divide failed to stand up and counter the President’s nominations in favour of women, resulting in all his nominations being endorsed.
“Capable women like Anna Motlhagodi, Motsei Madisa-Rapelana and many others should have appeared in the hallowed halls of parliament, but we failed because of our leaders’ failure to speak up,” she concluded.