A consultancy on how to improve agricultural development in Botswana stopped short of recommending affirmative action in favour of women.
For development to improve the quality of life for males and females, it is crucial that it must be directed by policies and programmes that are focused on clear targets, in order to ascertain the specific vulnerabilities related to gender with a view to addressing them, and to promote effective implementation of such policies and programmes.
This was stated at a workshop held under the theme, “Gender Equality; A strategy towards Agriculture and Rural Development” in Gaborone this past week.
It was in this context that senior Government officials, Directors and Gender Focal Persons, in the Ministry of Agriculture were told that any genuine initiative aimed at including women as beneficiaries of developmental processes must be preceded by a thorough analysis of the balance of opportunities for both sexes.
Valencia Mogegeh, an independent Development Consultant working closely with the Woman Affairs Department, soon to be known as the Department of Gender Affairs, said that a generalized approach carries the risk of perpetuating the existing inequalities between men and women.
Mogegeh expressed the view that it is only through gender mainstreaming that the righting of wrongs created by age old value systems and traditions which governed society, could be effected.
To achieve this, she argued, “any policy initiative must be preceded by a thorough investigation and understanding of the different roles of men and women in terms of productivity, reproduction, decision making and the extent of accessibility of resources to both groups.”
In addition, the unique and specific needs of each as well as areas of interest, problems and obstacles they encounter should be taken into account.
For the sake of emphasis, she prefaced her submission with an explanation to the effect that the European approach, where they talk of cooperation for development requires the integration of gender analysis in all levels during a project cycle”.
After the workshop, the Principal Rural Sociologist in the Policy Research and Statistics Coordination division of MOA, Kenewang Moseki-Orufheng, said, “I am happy that these presentations are appropriately directed at the right people. Furthermore, it is heartening to realize that most of the participants seem generally receptive to the ideas shared on how to transform the mindsets.”
However, one of the challenges faced by the unit is that the concept of gender is a relatively new thing. Besides, Moseki-Orufheng intimated that the fact that our Ministry leadership, especially Ministers, is passionate about the issue gives them hope.
Although, the Ministry of Agriculture seems to be way ahead of most ministries, she believes taking advantages of the programmes rolled out by Government through WAD may be the best thing to do.
Nathaniel Tlhalerwa, a Senior Gender Officer at WAD, concurred with Mogegeh.
“The very best that the Ministry can do as a significant step forward, is to acknowledge that in spite of the excellent performance by women in different spheres of life, even where some men couldn’t, Eve’s species remain marginalized and worst of all, the poorest of society belong among them.”
Following on from this recognition, a framework within which to uplift women and girls, to bring them at par with their male counterparts, would provide an ideal environment for affirmative action.
The Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Shaw Kgathi, said, “The historical genesis of gender disparities in the agriculture sector in Botswana can be traced to many factors, which, among them, include culture.”