Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Women don’t need empowerment, they need opportunities

A closer observation of the innate make-up of a woman and where she spends her time will raffle the widely held notion of empowerment; that it is an encompassing and effective tool that will result in betterment of the quality of women’s lives. This argument challenges the functionality of empowerment as the relevant tool to use to increase the visibility and active participation of women in the political, economic and social spheres. 

The basis of this argument however is that this tool has not sufficiently and meaningfully achieved the expected outcomes. The conclusion that it arrives at is that empowerment is secondary to activating robust participation of women in economic and political activities, and that what is primary is first of all to recognize that the role of women in society has been misplaced.   

Critics always ask the question how women found themselves occupying shadowy positions in society when they had from the beginning possessed and applied traits that are needed for economic growth today. As a result of the gap that exists in nation building, different bodies and entities are rigorously involved in empowering women to enhance their capabilities and enable them to “make purposive choices and transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes,” as acknowledged by the World Bank.  


President Ian Khama has also called for the development of a comprehensive national response to gender based violence. Further, a legal aid service has been introduced, meant to facilitate women’s access to justice, including survivors of gender based violence. While Botswana has made great strides in fighting gender based violence (GBV), the statistics are still high. A study commissioned by government and Gender Links  in 2013 year revealed that prevalence of violence against women stood at 67 percent in Botswana. 

As a mother, a woman possesses an inherent nurturing spirit that cultivates the right conditions for healthy growth and development. According to a research on the role and place of women in Sub-Saharan societies a woman is embodied as “the foundational pillar upon which all the family and community structures rely.” In the growth process a woman applies consistency in discipline and in day to day activities which develop a structured and ordered pattern of life. It only takes applying such traits to the workplace as well as into the economy to harness much desired growth. The value and importance of women holding eminent positions will directly result in growth and development of the economy. As a matter of fact, the World Bank cites that “when more women work, economies grow. An increase in female labour force participation or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force participation results in faster economic growth.” This finding supports that of researchers and economists, who evaluated the link between participation of women in the economy and the resulting increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of the total value of economic activities.  

As a spouse, a woman exhibits a sense of control and management over the affairs of the household with both vigour and fulfilment. She makes herself available to all the demands of the household and exercises wisdom in attending to each one in equal and fair proportions. The possession of such traits is what enables women to derive real outcomes and results from the works that they engage in. To prove this statement, the International Centre for Research cites that women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food but however earn only 10 percent income. This insignificant income benefit then lends credence to the view that women produce results, but do not enjoy the benefit of such work.   

Botswana still lags behind in some critical areas of women empowerment, 20 years after the historic Beijing conference. Held in 1995, the Beijing conference – which attracted activists and delegates from all over the world – identified critical areas such as women and the economy, women in power, violence against women, human rights and women and institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women. Although it was the fourth international conference on women empowerment, the Beijing conference is considered the most critical gathering on women affairs, owing not only to the robust deliberations that lasted for three weeks but because the conference came up with the Beijing Platform of Action which is hailed as the most progressive blueprint for the economic and social advancement of women. 

As a community member, a woman instructs and directs the upkeep of societal norms and values. Her strong sense of discernment gives her the upper hand in bringing order to chaos. Nation building will come from having women in leadership and decision making positions. Gender and women’s empowerment is resolutely placed on the agenda of the SADC programme of Action and Community Building Initiative. The SADC declaration on gender and development was stamped in 1997 with an initial target of 30 percent women political participation, anticipated to be achieved by 2005. In 2005 member states decided to increase the target to 50 percent in line with the African Union. Half of the countries are reported to have representation of above 30 percent of women participating in politics and decision making. Botswana however is gravely underrepresented with less than 10 percent of women in political positions. It is currently sitting at a representation of eight percent. According to the World Bank it is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness. This finding supports the commitment to place women in leadership position as doing so greatly benefits the people whom they serve. 

The characteristics that depict women above give account to the argument that empowerment are secondary to stimulating participation of women in the economy. It is obvious that women naturally possess the traits that make them agents of development therefore the effort to see them assume their original position in society will only becomes successful if their role is rightly recognized. 


Read this week's paper