As a result of historical, cultural and other factors, women have not yet achieved equality in most societies, including balance in the electoral process.
Globally, there is only 16 percent of women parliament representation or in political leadership positions. Africa has only two women presidents and Botswana out of 57 constituencies; there are only four women in parliament, only two elected by voting public, two specially selected by the President to balance gender representation in parliament.
The Setswana culture, tradition somehow influences women representation in various leadership positions including political leadership. Traditional man is head of the family and as ‘charity begins at home’; the trend is carried on to impose gender biased elections nationally. A Setswana is saying “they can never be led by a female,” the opposite of the English saying, ‘Ladies first.’ This Setswana saying was derived from observing every living being which always is led by a bull or male. A bull or male normally lead herd of cattle, buffalos or anything that moves in herds. This old age Setswana saying has effects on socioeconomic gender equality nationwide. Many still believe ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen.’
However, women have proved that they can juggle corporate accounts just as good as they can juggle babies, but chances of making it into political leadership are very slim for them.
Rhoda Sekgororoane, a political veteran, now working for a non-governmental organization Emang Basadi (Stand up woman) says she believes democracy is not complete when women are still left behind.
“A democratic Botswana has men and women equally involved in the running of their country. Emang Basadi conducts workshops every four years, a way of preparing women aspirants for national general elections. Our challenges are lack of resources as some donor agencies have pulled out as they believe that Botswana is a rich country and can manage on its own”, says Rhoda Sekgororoane.
She says Emang Basadi intends to move from rhetoric to action, lobbying the Botswana government to create a conducive environment by including quotas into the constitution or reserve few women seats in parliament. Rhoda Sekgororoane added that it’s not an easy road for women in political leadership, but she still advocates for equal representation in parliament even though she experienced hardship during her stint as a councillor.
According to Botswana’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), gender equality in elections is hampered by many factors. Women do not vote each other into a leadership position because of pettiness or jealous. Women are not risk takers by nature, and they are afraid to stand for elections as candidates for fear of losing either the elections or campaign money. Lack of resources also affects gender equality in political leadership, campaigns are expensive, and the head of family, husband, normally controls finances. Women as caregivers at home and often feel that political careers will keep them away from their children”, says Ngatange Mavis Mukungu of Independent Electoral Commission.
By Meekaeel Siphambili
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