In Botswana, women make up a bulk of the population, a large percentage of who are formally educated. It is surprising though, to note that there are very few women in leadership, initiative or decision making positions and roles within political spheres, except in the so called women’s wings. During the previous administration, there seemed to be rapid positive changes, as involving women was government priority, with no less than 10 women in parliament. We have gone ten steps back, with no less than three women in Cabinet, less in constituencies, heading different sectors in society.
Like many African countries, Botswana has suffered patriarchy, chauvinism and the traditional model of male superioty. This is all good and well, women have silently carried around this fate but it has worked to our detriment as they aren’t involved in decisions which affect them more, especially as regular victims of abuse, sexism and as mothers, wives roles which ensure that they raise communities and uphold the essence of civilized society.
A factor that has been brought forth is the PHD (Pull her Down) syndrome, yet both men and women are guilty of this. For some men it hasn’t caught up that women can be actively functional and independent thinkers who have the intellectual, spiritual and mental capacity to be in leadership roles. The conflicts we have had in having female chiefs, CEOs and such is confirmation of this. From a “traditional” perspective, many men are uncomfortable with the thought of being led by woman as our traditions as with many in African has stagnantly refused to view women as equals. Gender equality, is perceived as a western idea. There are also women who enjoy lurking in subordinate roles. Most of these women are the “ululaters”.
I’m reminded of the president making distasteful jokes about women and they laughed and ululated. If a president can openly undermine women on a personal and public platform, is it rocket science that he will not have the development of women beyond being just the other sex as a concern or interest.
Any woman who demonstrates an assertiveness and intelligence that defies stereotype is likely to be reffered to as a ‘bitch’ or a ‘witch’. In Botswana, personal woman development can be akin to a sin. The youth call it “haterism”. At a time where it would be useful to support women and share ideas as well as contribute to the general development of the country, we are blinded by the simplicity of gender politics which are irrelevant and backward. This is one of the reasons Botswana remains steps behind it’s contemporaries at a time when it could be a global force in terms of policies, business and the eradication of poverty and other social ills and nuisances. Instead we are caught up in the small politics of gender, class and nepotism.
Another factor is the traditional view of women solely as wives and mothers, despite the fact that women run homes and raise families, mostly single-handedly. If one can take on these roles, surely they can be groomed to be leaders. We need to challenge stereotypes and shift mindsets. There are many women willing and able to participate actively on useful political roles. The pursuit of education is just a prime example. Africa as a whole is not a “woman friendly” place and Botswana is no exception. The continent has the highest rates of woman abuse like rape, murder, beatings, public humiliations, discrimination etc while it conflictingly boasts to uphold moral values and principles. Who are committing these indecencies? Even the laws are more biased towards men in cases of abuse and other discriminations. Women are just not taken seriously and it is these mindsets that make us hover between emancipation and absurdity. It is, perhaps time to deal with the gender dichotomy and politics within our own communities. Just the mere fact that we still talk about it is an indicator that it’s still an issue of concern.