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WOMAN OF DESTINY

The evening that I met Rosemary Mukwewa was filled with a cold breeze. Already the lights were shinning on the streets and the last group of workers was arriving home. It was around 7:00PMand I made a call to Mrs. Mokwewa. She responded so exuberantly and told me, “my daughter, just wait for me! Right now am at the farm, so please just go by my house.”She started directing me to her place and, for some minutes, I waited at the gate. Before I could wonder, I saw a Toyota approaching the gate entrance and I knew it was her. Mrs Mukwewa jumped out of her car and headed to the main entrance and switched on the lights. She signaled to me to come inside the house where she showed me a place to relax and offered me some snacks.

Mrs . Rosemary Mukwewa was born in 1955 in a rural village in Botswana called Mathangwane. The educational pedigrees she has pursued seem endless: she did her Cambridge and went to Swaziland to complete a Public Administration certificate with a focus on Organization and Methods. Where in Botswana is called IDM (Institute of Development Management) . Not stopping there, Mukwewa went on to earn a certificate in Urban Development (housing management course) .Then, she went to Zimbabwe for a Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board, after which she attended various related workshops to enhance her skills. She married Aiden Cuthbert Mukwewa, a chemical engineer and graduate of Lufbra University in the UK. Together they have four children, all of whom have pursued similarly ambitious endeavors: one is a chartered accountant, one is a graduate of a university in Canada, one is studying economics in Malaysia, and one is at the University of Botswana studying finance.

Her professional journey began in 1974 with her work as an administration officer. In 2004, she was nominated a councilor under the Botswana Democratic Party ticket. While serving on the council, she chaired the education committee for five consecutive years and later became the chairperson of Town Planning Development Works. Her work earned her a promotion to become Deputy Chairperson of Health, Social Services and Works Committee. In 2008, she was appointed to the new office as a Town Mayor. Remarkably, while still on the council, Mrs. Mukwewa was able to open a business of her own, a catering company, and was appointed a leader of Bala Women’s Commission. This organization is an association for the councils, under the Botswana local Government Association. Using this as a platform, she launched the Bala Women’s Commission in South Africa and in Ghana. Despite her wishes to launch a similar commission in Nigeria, her turn was over at Selibe – Phikwe Town Council, and thus her role at the Bala Women’s Commission also came to an end.

In 2003, Mrs. Mukwewa retired with the intent of taking on farming projects. In this she had a vision to empower women in her community. Mrs. Mukwewa is clearly disgusted by the way girls around her are treated. She has seen too much beyond her control. She has decided to respond by working with young girls to empower them to come out of poverty. She teaches these young girls to become farmers; she teaches them the important skills of the trade so that they can stand on their own. She smiles all the time as we keep on talking about the farming group. In 2009, she joined the Piggery Farming Group, where she was chosen the chairperson of the association called Badikolobeng Piggery. Her intension as a farmer is to open an abattoir for pigs which will be one of a kind. To this end, she has networked with the Women’s Affairs Department in Selibe – Phikwe so that they can become farmers with the intent of the facility that they want to do . The meat product from the abattoir and meat processing plant will be sold locally, regionally and internationally, even as far as China, where she has identified a market for the product. Animal feed to support the operation will be produced by a subsidiary of Badikolobeng Piggery.

Because of Mrs.Mukwewa’s efforts, girls in our village may have a better future. Now, rather than being forced to engage in sex before marriage, as is so frequently the case in our community, young, disadvantaged girls can receive special care and the training necessary to support themselves. Mrs. Mukwewa explains to me her motivation, saying, “can you imagine a big man your father’s age? I saw last year, this man had a girlfriend who works for the copper mine, but when she is off work, you will see that this girl is still young because she is in her school uniform. Then you see that man kissing the girl like nobody’s business. They knew what they are doing is not right; these are the realities that steal our joy and pride as mothers.”

We continue our conversation and Mrs. Mukwewa cites that the official closing date of the mine has been pronounced, 2013. Here her dream has the potential to become even more impactful, as the closure of the mine may mean that more girls will come to her for training. Her vision is to see poverty eradicated by involving women in the business of agriculture. To this end, she liaises with SPEDU, the Selibe – Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit, which has been mandated by the government to diversify the economy of this town when the mine collapses. SPEDU has been also set up to help or assist in the application of loans and plots of land for the residents of this town. She explains her passion for her community and that she wants to achieve a lot. She says she wants to empower women economically because men in this community abuse women because they are not economically fit for success or self-sustenance in our society . With farming she believes she can overcome poverty as long as these women will follow her leadership.

The following day, we went to her farm, where I found pigs, fowls, her farm house, and hectares of land for ploughing by the farm workers. It was a beautiful place—very picturesque with a small hill behind the house.

Her biggest challenge in trying to unleash her potential and accomplish her goals, is not coincidentally Botswana’s biggest issue: HIV/AIDS, which is especially rampant in her region. There is a serious challenge of medical check-ups, collection of ARV Drugs, however life seems to be meaningful when they have achieved all their duties at the end of the day. As HIV/AIDS is a devastating experience in this town, she says she does not discriminate against anyone and is intent on welcoming even the affected. “We mingle with them with love and respect. In this way, they can benefit from others in the group.”

Land issues and infrastructure development remains a challenge, as Botswana remains a “dark country,” unlike South Africa where the whole country is networked with reliable electrical power. Also the constitution of Botswana is a serious problem; the legislative law is not friendly to women. If a woman wants a loan, nothing can be done in the absence of her spouse and all the documents must be first signed by her husband. “If this law could be abolished, we would not experience such delays,” she suggests.

Despite the apparent success of Mrs. Mukwewa’s efforts and her trustworthy demeanor, there are still women who are reluctant to go along with her efforts to empower them. They murmur words of failure and complain without ceasing. She reveals this with pain since the very women she wants to impact and aims to empower economically are the ones who reject her advices, often because of illiteracy and distrust.

In the room in which we sit, she searches her books and files on her bookshelf and finally comes up with a pamphlet entitled, “PRESENTATION TO THE SALGA WOMEN IN PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SUMMIT.” It reads:
16TH – 18TH AUGUST 2009

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA,

BY BALA WOMEN’S COMMISSION - BOTSWANA

ROSEMARY MUKWEWA,

HONOURABLE COUNCILOR

SELIBE – PHIKWE TOWN COUNCIL

Inside the pamphlet is the speech she presented at the summit and I am so excited to have the privilege of reading her words and imagining the scene. While I sit, still in awe, she quickly heads to her DVD rack and retrieves a brand new DVD, “ROAD MAP TO QUALITY,” with a picture of a Venda woman. It is a presentation for The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, developed in 2008.

We shake hands as it is time for me to leave, but Mrs. Mukwewa offers me a lift home. On the way, she tells me she is grateful to me for my efforts. Yet, I am the grateful one: I am excited to be rubbing my shoulder with her. The privilege, the access to know about her and what she is doing has greatly impacted me. I am strengthened to realize that there are women of Mrs. Mukwewa’s caliber in my community. I am fulfilled by the alignment of our values and our hopes for the future.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Inspiring

What an inspiring woman this Mrs. Mukwewa is! I love hearing about her projects and would love to know more of the impacts--have you seen the women who have gone through her program? Are they farming now? Is anything being done to address the discriminatory laws against women who want to get loans? I see that as a huge obstacle for self-sufficiency.

It sounds like you have a good leader to work with in your community to help you further your vision for women's empowerment and a healthy community. Do let us know if you do more work with Ms. Mukwewa!

Kind regards,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

warona's picture

oh yes Mrs Mukwewa ...!

Dear Rachel!

Mrs Mukwewa is an amazing woman.You sit down with her you will learn a lot about this community. So far i have become part of Baikolobeng piggery farmers, I have been choosen the secretary of the group. Our intension: we want to open an abbatoir. One of its own kind. Already we have exciting piggery farmers from long time while on the other hand we are working on empowering other women to be independent by becoming farmers. We realise with farming to the illeterate it is always easy for them to feed and wash as well kip the records. Despite all that we dicuss pertaining to the challenges of our progress Mrs Mukwewa is the source of inspiration in this project. Since most of the time am at work it has been hindering our meetings.

We want Selibe - phikwe to stand up and see Agriculture as a way of living. I in particular hate hunger. I dont want to see people with minds and hands, bound by hunger, oh no. We were privillaged the government recently called us to notify us about a mini workshop which they wanted to mount. At the end of three day workshop we were given a treat to a small trip around our town where other piggery farmers were. We identified farmers and their animals, it was so wonderful.Though a lot were complaining about pigs feeds, their expensiveness. We had to encourage and assure them. We actually started at Mrs Mukwewa 's farm.And the rest respectively.We were using Government 's vehicles and it was so awesome. To wrap up everything here women around here love farming, but as for the youth they will always want something that sensetize them, something that moves their passion in farming. At least the government is supportive in helping its youth with finance to overcome the challenges in Agriculture.

So me and Mrs Mukwewa we are connected in this manner.Am her Secretary and am learning a lot from her.As well when i interviewed her she kept looking into my eyes as i revealed what other women are doing in world pulse.

Thank you so much for your support. Will keep you posted dear.

Regards

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Greta's picture

Greetings Warona!

I wanted to send you a note and let you know how much I enjoyed reading about Mrs. Mukwewa and your interaction with her. She is indeed an inspiration, as are you. I was very touched at the way you ended your writing in that you both felt gratitude toward each other, how the experience filled you with sense of privilege, strength and hope. Your sharing here has done the same for me, as we all work together to bring positive change in our communities.

With Admiration,

Gretchen

Hello over there!

Dear Greta!

Positive change! Yes my dear Greta, my community needs women of power, with strength, those that are envisioned.We want to empower and impact them so that our world will never be the same. Mrs Mukwewa is a hardworker, ready to help others all the time. She is not a type of a person who will ignore you. She has people at heart. Infact am still rubbibg my shoulder with her ever since i met her. We get along easily and she appreciates me all the time. The more i talk with her the more i get encouraged. She is such an amzing woman. She exudes power in all her endouvours.Am very greteful to learn that also this has ministered to you so mightly, it blesses my heart to hear all this.Thank you my dear love.

Thank my dear Greta for your awesome comment.

Thankful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

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