REPRESENTATION OF BOTSWANA WOMEN IN POLITICS - 2014 GENERAL ELECTIONS - MAPPING THE WAY FORWARD
In its 44th year in history of holding elections Botswana has always enjoyed generous praise around the world for its free and fair elections.
But as I have argued in the past about other perceptions of Botswana‘s democracy, the fairness ( as opposed to the freedom ) of our elections is actually not as praise worthy as it has always been made out to be .True Botswana is a multi party state where political parties are free to campaign openly and express themselves freely in an effort to win the support of the electorate.
Botswana will exercise their democratic right to vote for the political the leadership they prefer to take the country into 2014 when the next general elections will be held. This right Is one that every eligible citizen should utilize, as it is their responsibility to vote for the leadership they want in power. All the people are encouraged to go and vote. However there are people who do not vote as they do not see the importance of the exercise. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has done all it can to educate the public on the importance of voting and also educate political candidates on the best way of doing politics. More recently there has been a series of wide ranging constitutional amendments. Another important consequence of the 1997 amendments is that the president of the Republic of Botswana is the only one permitted to appoint a vice president from among the elected ( as opposed to the specially elected members of parliament and further that , any such appointees must be approved and /or endorsed by the national Assembly. This development represented a significant break with past practice.
Another matter which cannot be omitted from any complete history of parliament in Botswana is the entry of women. Up until 1974 ( 3rd parliament ) the membership of the National Assembly had been wholly or exclusively male. Following the 1974 elections Dr Gaositwe Chiepe and Mrs Kebatshabile Disele were specially elected as members of parliament .Dr Chiepe was later appointed minister of commerce and industry while the latter remained a backbencher for a while until her elevation to cabinet as a minister of Home Affairs. Just to put you through to know what has been happening around in Botswana: In 1977, Dr GT Chiepe was elected Member of Parliament for Serowe south, following a bye election occasioned by the death of Mr Kgari the former MP for that constituency.Mrs Ditsele ceased to be a member of parliament on the dissolution of the 3rd parliament and the number of women dropped to 1.It was Mrs Clara Olsen , the specially elected in 1984 who restored the number to 2women MPs. Within these other years chronicle of events took place hence the increment of women in parliament had risen to a record of 8.
The numbers changed again in 2004 elections leading to the 9th parliament. Honorable Joy Phumaphi resigned her seat in the National Assembly and her post in the cabinet to take up an international job. During this time a lot of women were not successful in their party primary elections.However two other women were specially elected in which they were appointed Minister of health and assistant minister of Education respectively. In the early 1960s, as the country made the transition to independence, there were no women in Botswana's government. Today, Margarat Nnananyana Nasha, Botswana‘s well loved woman, is the first female Speaker of the National Assembly. She did not enter politics directly, however - she first joined the diplomatic corps. She certainly did well enough to be noticed. She was nominated to parliament in 1994 .Few years later was appointed minister of local government, lands and housing - one of the most difficult ministries to run, as it serves as a quasi government for rural areas of the country. Nasha did well there. In 1999, she won elections for Gaborone Central and retained her cabinet post. The steady upward line of her career dipped for the first time when she lost her seat in the 2004 general elections, but then President Festus Mogae again brought her back to the House through special nomination. 'During this period, she felt that she should have quit, but she had a special interest in being a Speaker of the National Assembly, a position that has many challenges. To be elected to this position you have to lobby all candidates from the different political spectrum. She did this for three years, phoning all candidates lobbying for their support.
There were only five female MPs in the 61-member parliament. But she could not count on their support, since women are not supportive to other women in positions of power and once you start to show intentions of your stand, they start gossiping. This delays progress and steals the confidence that women have. Dr Nasha is a blunt speaking and jocular politician known for her pithy wisecracks. Around here they call her the “IRON LADY”. In a partrichal society men rule and the duty of women is to submit .Over the years the men have had a domineering influence in almost all Botswana Democratic party (BDP) structures, creating the impression that political power is a man ‘s preserve. However Dr Nasha has broken all the barriers, woman power! Certainly most of the women in Botswana holding political office have equally performed with great deal of admiration. Thus Botswana ‘s track record of good governance and economic growth supported by prudent macro economic and fiscal management, stands in contrast to the country ‘s high levels of poverty. Botswana was one of the poorest countries in Africa at the time it gained independence from Britain in 1966, with a GDP per capita of about US$70. Today Botswana has transformed itself , moving into the ranks of middle income status to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world with its average annual growth rate of about 9% with a GDP ( purchasing power parity ) per capita of about $14 8000 (2010 IMF estimate ).While education expenditure is high and significant educational achievements have been attained , including the provision of nearly universal and free education .Unemployment has been persistently high and its friend poverty on the other hand has been a serious concern. The government has responded positively to address these issues. In the contrary the aggressive introduction of HIV/AIDS drugs by the government which are being provided free of charge has been of great help since there are no more deaths to the citizens. At this present time Botswana is working on diversifying its economy which is heavily dependent on diamonds, beef market and tourism which amongst things is the proposed innovation hub project which will catapult the country to the world of innovations and innovation technology and researches in line with other institutions both local and international.
For the past 44 years of our independence Botswana has adhered to the fundamental political values and principles of good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights. It saddens me as I believe as a nation that the performance of women in politics in 2004 dropped, resulting on fewer elected members of parliament and councillors being women. On a positive note, I am happy to announce and inform the world that our government has resolved that 50% of all special nominations should be reserved for women politicians. And to date at least 50% of our specially elected members of parliament and councillors are women. Though we are traditionally a society of high belief in the mystic power of men and that in its belief has contributed to the low participation of women in politics and decision making process. Therefore very eligible woman must seize and are encouraged to take the opportunity to strategise and map the way forward to ensure that more women contest and win in free / fair elections in 2014. A highlighting note, however, in the contrary according to the latest findings from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), released to coincide with International Women’s Day, reveals that 74% of businesses in Botswana employ women in senior management positions. Women in Botswana fairs well in the business world. Botswana ranks 9th amongst the 32 countries that participated in the Recent survey that covered 7200 privately held businesses. Percentage of women in senior management roles in Botswana is 31%taking the seventh place amongst the participating countries. This reflects on the confidence placed in women by the owners and stakeholders in the business field. Women in Botswana are even placed high on International positions worldwide. About 97% of businesses in the Philippines1 have women in senior management positions, the highest in the survey, in contrast to the lowest Japan, with only 25%. Four out of the five countries with the lowest figures are in Europe: the Netherlands (27%), Luxembourg (37%), Germany (41%) and Italy (42%).
There are programs that the government gears towards uplifting the lives of Batswana, particularly women who are the care givers and bedrocks of our families. Moreover Civil Society in Botswana has contributed enormously in the electoral process through collaboration with the IEC on civic and voter education. The problem of under representation of women in Botswana‘s electoral contests is due to failure to participate in democratic process so as to get empowered. Despite the fact that women constitute the majority of voters, supporters, and attendees at political rallies across all political parties. The 2004 statistics shows 311265 registered female voters, compared to 239148 registered male voters. Aware of this worrying trend, Emang Basadi Association which came in existence in 1986 to lobby against laws that discriminate against women in Botswana. Its catalyst was the enactment of the 1982 citizenship Amendment Act, which sought to deny women married to non- citizen men to pass their citizenship to their offspring. This organization to date has been the most active in politics and has benefited considerably from its lobbying and pressure group efforts, encouraged women to register and vote in the upcoming elections. It also urged them to contest for political office. Emang Basadi Association produced two manifestos in 1994 & 1999 elections respectively prior to the release of manifestos by political parties .In this way it hoped to champion women’s issues and concerns . In 2003 and ahead of 2004 elections, it organized empowerment workshops for aspiring women candidates from all political parties contesting primary elections.
Despite the obvious success of Emang Basadi in transforming Botswana’s political landscape and culture, and in increasing the number of women in active politics, the goal of increasing female representation meaningfully in parliament, political parties and cabinet has failed to materialize; the number of women in political office does not even meet the United Nations minimum of 30%. Botswana‘s patriarchs have betrayed the struggle in two fundamental ways: firstly the ruling party patriarchs have clung relentlessly to an outmoded “winner takes all” electoral system. The system is not sensitive enough to changes in voter’s trends to enable women to bargain effectively with their votes thus force parties to respond positively to their demands. Among political parties there is a still minimal concession to women to ensure their continued electoral support while maintaining male dominion of political arena. Secondly, that which has undermined women’s political agenda is the historic tendency of splits within opposition parties. The main opposition party Botswana National Front (BNF) yielded well with 33% of opposition parliamentary seats in 1994 but underwent a split in the run up of 1999 elections, thus segmenting what would have been at least 47% into meaningful fragments that ensured the perpetuation of single party dominance. One effect was to reduce the ruling party to accommodate more women in power, to meet stated national commitments. Thus, the 2004 primary elections have seen the ruling party produce a mere 12% female representation to contest to the national elections.
She the Bank of Botswana governor Linah Mohohlo has however lamented the slow rise of women to positions of influence in this country such as politics. Mohohlo revealed at International Women‘s day Commemorations that countries like Rwanda , Tanzania , Uganda, South Africa have surpassed the 30% threshold of female representation in decision making positions must be applauded. Here in Botswana the situation is somewhat dismal. There only five positions (far less than five percent), out of 62, occupied by women in parliament. She said there it is important to do more to redress the status quo in Botswana. So many women in Botswana needs to be urged to so that they achieve the 30% representation in decision making positions. Well the problem is persisting. Once the women are involved in educational attainments especially in science and technology must be enhanced more especially in issues’ that affect women. It would enable women to obtain better pay and eliminate the income gap with their male counterparts. African women are often protected by law but not in reality because the actions and resources do not generally match women empowerment .I want to agree with educators that education is fundamental because investing globally in girls ‘ education boosts economic growth and political participation.