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Botswana : Make life better for our women and children

D 27 décembre 2012     H 05:41     A Botswana National Front     C 0 messages

Unless we move away from the current political dispensation, the Sixteen Days of activism will come and go as it will happen this year, but the problems that face women in our society will remain. As we mark the the Sixteen Days of activism which started on the 25th November and ends on the 10th December, the Botswana National Front (BNF) calls upon the nation to join hands in creating awareness about issues that negatively affect Women and Children.

Currently women and children in this country and around the world are still vulnerable and suffer abuse and exploitation at the hands of governments, other institutions and individuals. The role that women play in our society has to appreciated and it is our belief that children are the future. We therefore call upon all citizens and different organizations to commit themselves to fighting all forms of abuse at home, the workplace and in our society against children.

The BNF as a progressive organisation and a voice of the downtrodden, under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) makes a pledge to all to mobilize and be at the forefront of the fight against all forms of abuse in this country. We will also champion the development of programmes aimed at enhancing the status and welfare of women and children without fail. As the vanguard of society we will be actively participating in processes and activities aimed at the creation of a society that values women and children and guard against any form of violence. The BNF shall continue to campaign against any patriarchal tendencies that further oppress women and children. It is not surprising that the BNF is pushing for the promotion on mentural health and hygiene and the promotion of free sanitary pads for poor women.

We should not underestimate the entrenched sexism that continues to characterise our dominant culture. Sexualised violence still exists and according to the UN, every third woman in the world will be exposed to serious violence at some time in her life. Most cases of abuse occur in the home and are perpetrated by a husband, a partner or a close relative. Every fifth woman in the world is at some time exposed to rape or attempted rape, reports the UN. Sexualised violence against women also includes murder committed because of jealousy and the so-called "reasons of honour". These various expressions of violence against women are all rooted in the hegemonic unequal patriarchal power order, where men assume the right to control women. Despite the wide dispersal of the problem, it is given shamefully low priority when sharing out resources. In trying to resolve the issues around patriarchy, we need to find out how it came about. Why is it that women have been historically and systematically marginalised in structures that have to do with distribution of power ?

There is consensus that quotas are necessary in the fight against this malady. Beyond this point disagreement emerges. While the Bourgeiosie school of thought will argue that bringing down legal barriers is enough and will create an enabling environment for women to fully reach their aspirations, we at the BNF believe that quotas in representation at all levels should be accompanied by a corresponding advancement or development in job creation, eradication of women abuse, poverty and many other ills that continue to bedevil the womenfolk. Head-counting on its own without real gains in the quality of ordinary women’s lives is not sufficient. We should of course not underplay the importance of quotas as they lay a firm foundation for allowing women to enter decision making chambers from within which they can push for the overhaul of patriarchal policy formulation machinery. Inclusion is a means to an end and should not be an end in itself.

As we transform our society and bring down those structures that have marginalised women, we should not overlook the family. In it we find strong patriarchal gender relations. The family is an important centre of socialisation. Over the years women have been impoverished due to the patriarchal nature of our society. Neo-liberal policies have worsened their situation. Reduction in social spending by governments as a result of Washington consensus has worsened the positions of most women. Most of those in the informal, casual and atypical labour are women. This situation affects them as labourers and care-givers in the home. Society continues to accrue huge benefits as a result of unpaid domestic, which is mostly undertaken by women. Therefore labour is reproduced cheaply at the expense of women. The BDP Government cost recovery policy is seriously affecting women as they are the most vulnerable. It further weakens their position. It is the Women who bear most of the brunt as they dominate in the BDP government expolitative scheme, Ipelegeng where they get a mere P400 per month. They dominate in Ipelegeng because they lack training, are poor, are unemployed and desperate. From this P400 they are expected to feed their children. Poverty therefore resides more in female headed families because of Patriachy and exploitation.

For working class women to do wage work and house work undermines their position in the work place. Some employers choose to employ men as they won’t take time off to attend to their children. It is through the consistent and unwavering agitation on the part of the BNF that today women in Botswana (as the principal carers and child bearers) are compensated for taking time off to care of children in the form of maternity leave. As we celebrate this achievement which was championed by our party which has always been the voice of the downtrodden, we need to look into other areas where women as centres of production and reproduction are not adequately compensated. Our failure to reward them properly will not remove women from poverty and abuse which they suffer from as a result of their weak economic position. We therefore call for the introduction of Paternity leave so that men can also take the responsibility of looking after and raising their children. They also have a role to play in their children’s upbringing. Raising children should not be seen as the sole responsibility of women.
Capitalism as a system of accumulation and other injustices have to be challenged as it is no longer sensible to speak of gender equality and quotas only. Though patriarchy has been blamed for the situation in which we find women, it can not singularly take the blame. Patriarchy also intersects with other identities like class and race. When we eschew universalism we will notice that women may define themselves in many other ways outside their gender. Having a large number of women in positions of power does not necessarily mean that we will rid society of patriarchy and its impacts.

The question is whose interests do these women in power serve ? Can we boldly say that their background, e.g. class, race and ethnicity do not influence their outlook and performance in their roles. We have seen some people arguing for greater women representation just because they want to personally benefit from the resultant appointments. The notion that women are better guarantors of other women’s rights is shallow and fallacious. In fact certain women are regrettably more "patriarchal" than some men.

Of course representation of women is necessary and should not be open to debate. It is more of a tool for reform in the current gender insensitive and exploitative society. Properly instituted gender parity can provide solid bedrock from which substantive liberation of women can be advanced. We should have a gendered perspective which is not blind to class and ethnicity.

Together we can make make life better for our women and children. Let us change today !