Women demand SADC accountability for timelines

A glaring failure of southern Africa is the region’s failure to implement the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development of 1997 to the point where women are only 18% of leaders at local government level and 11% in the National Assembly. MPHO MATSHEDISO reports

Former president of the Botswana Congress Party Women’s League (BCPWL), Daisy Bathusi, has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to hold its members accountable to timelines and to have ramifications for poor performance.

Bathusi was reacting to gender disparities that are visible in the labour market despite the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development of 1997 that was aimed at ensuring equal representation of men and women in decision-making structures by 2015 which Botswana has failed to achieve.

According to a study released by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), there are fewer women in decision-making positions in Botswana with at least 58 percent of women in elementary positions where only 42 percent are males.

“Women dominate the clerical low end of the corporate world. I think what is of grave concern is that women are the main players in the informal sector and Ipelegeng programmes, yet they are also mainly the majority leading families,” Bathusi said in an interview with The Botswana Gazette this week.

“More families in Botswana are female-led yet women dominate the poverty stats, which means that more families are brought up under poverty conditions in homes. We need political will to ensure total commitment to a robust implementation plan with timelines. I know Gender Links used to do a barometer at councils but I think we need an independent national entity to monitor and evaluate our deliverables to all these protocols that we commit ourselves to.”

According to the incumbent BCPWL president, Tshimologo Dingake, the government needs to domesticate the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and enact its provisions while also implementing SADC Gender Protocols. “We are quite alive to talk on a constitutional review,” Dingake said in an interview. “We have hope this shall come to pass because as women, legislation leaves us very much exposed, especially the parallel use of both customary and common law. You will be aware that customary law is not at all defined and is very much susceptible to abuse.”

She considers the issue of gender equality and equity their prime focus. “Our approach is to target empowering women to be aware of their rights and their entitlements,” she emphasized. “For us, that is the starting point because when women go to negotiate their positions at various fora, they should be coming from a position of knowledge. We believe unionization has successfully empowered the worker and should similarly educate the women on their rights.”

Addressing journalists on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day whose theme was “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World,” Dingake said the political leadership structure in Botswana is “embarrassingly skewed” against women. “According to the Gender Links Botswana Elections Report 2020, women make up 18 percent of leadership at local government, 11 percent at the National Assembly,” she noted.

“We would like to call on the government, as the main player in our various socio-political spheres and in the economy, to treat as urgent the issues of gender equality.”

Ivory Keekee, who is the president of the Botswana Patriotic Front Women’s League (BPFWL), says her party intends to train and groom women for leadership positions. “We educate women not to feel inferior in positions that they compete for against men.

Women need to stand up for themselves. We desire to see women commanders of the BDF,” Keekee told The Gazette, adding that they are networking with other opposition parties to that end “Although we have not had our women’s league congress because of COVID-19, we do have caucuses with other opposition parties regarding how we can increase women in leadership and influence. As the BPF women’s league, we proposed to the party that in the instance a constituency having eight wards, four should go to women so that our voice is heard equally.”