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‘I am gay to the core’

Yvonne Mooka

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SAYING IT OUT: Caine Youngman is openly gay and has no fear

Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) advocacy manager says he discovered that he was gay while in primary school.Then he did not know there was a term for his sexual orientation. Nonetheless, he was different from the other boys. “When I was with gents, they would be busy checking out girls and saying how beautiful they were, and I’d be busy checking them (the gents) out and thinking they’re too hot,” he says.

Youngman is openly gay and has no fear. He never had problems with coming out of the closet or being freely gay because he treats people with respect. However, revealing his sexual orientation was a bit of a process as he had to come out to himself first. “I had to make peace with myself first, and then tell my family, individually. I did that but it escalated when I started appearing in newspapers talking about LEGABIBO. I was still a student,” he says.

Born and raised in Francistown, Youngman says that he has been fortunate to be gay and free. He says that members of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex community were faced with rejection from families and workplaces. “My family has always been supportive. They have never made me feel like an outcast,” he says. In his many years of advocacy, Youngman says that he has seen LGBTI persons discriminated and made to feel inhumane. He says that most families do not want to deal with their children’s sexuality. “We have had instances where some of our members wanted to kill themselves,” he says. He says that there is a lot of blackmail and extortion against gays by heterosexuals. Citing examples, he says that they have dealt with cases where one of their members was involved.

“When someone has not come out that he is gay, someone can threaten that he is going to do something, for example, tell his employer or family, that he is gay if he does not do something that he wants or give him whatever he wants. We have been forced to engage lawyers to represent our members before,” he states. He states that gay people have been threatened with rape by members of the society, wanting to benefit something from them. Some, he says, create false Facebook pages to ridicule LGBTI persons. Others have been assaulted for being gay.

Between February and September last year, Youngman says they have dealt with 12 cases of violence against LGBTI persons. “Only two reported the violence. The rest said they feared being rejected by their families, friends and employers. “When heterosexuals see that you’re still hiding, they use it against you,” he says, advising gays LGBTI persons to come out when they are ready. He says that they should know the environment that they are living in and be mentally ready for what comes with being openly gay.

He however says LGBTI discrimination is not worse compared to other countries. Youngman thanked the Ministry of Health and Wellness for making it its own mandate to include LGBTI persons in their National Strategic Framework. He says that LEGABIBO was actively involved in its draft.

We’re all human
Asked what people need to understand about the LGBTI community, Youngman says that just like everyone else, they need a peace of mind. He says that they face severe challenges and could do with a conducive environment. “Many of us face a lot of mental issues because families do not want our relationships. We are made to choose between our partners and our families. As a result, relationships do not work,” he says.

Fortunately, Youngman says his family has been supportive of his relationship of four years. Dishing out a little about his partner, he says that he is caring, has his best interest at heart and is supportive of his advocacy role. He says that his partner took care of him when he was sick last year, and also helped with LEGABIBO conference this year that attracted the southern advocacy region. “We have met each other’s families, and our families have also met,” he says.

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

The MidweekSun Admin

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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