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Wherever you go, we will follow

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Various speakers at a meeting called by former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) president Ian Khama in Serowe took turns to promise that they would vote the ruling party out of power at the general elections slated for later this year.

This was after listening to the lamentations of Khama at a meeting he had called Bangwato for a gathering at the Serowe showgrounds on Saturday. Khama had briefed the tribe on his problems with the leadership of the BDP under President Mokgweetsi Masisi which he said had compelled him to consider dumping his father’s party. When addressing the people on what he termed undemocratic tendencies meted on him by his party, Khama went on to tacitly campaign for the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) led by Duma Boko, calling on his people to consider bringing the main opposition party into power.

He told his audience that despite all that could be done by anybody to trample on their rights and freedoms, they should remember that the greatest weapon they could use is the ballot. An interview with a Councillor of Malatswai, Baitshepi Mosimanegape on the sidelines of the meeting suggested that a plan was already put out in motion for those with influence to go and rally people behind Khama’s wishes. Councillor Mosimanegape was beaming with excitement when he spoke to The Midweek Sun: “This is the time we have been waiting for. We are going out there to consult and mobilise as requested by Khama.”

Speaking openly during comments and question time, Motshereganye Sentsho, who said he had received warning letters from the party for his outspokenness, said he was happy Khama had come to see them. “Your father said you should rely on your tribe,” he said, endorsing the idea of helping the opposition to beat the BDP at the general elections this year. “Your problems are our problems. We have been waiting for you and now we know your position. Wherever you go, we go with you,” added Bernard Letsididi. An unidentified elderly woman, who was rather emotional, wondered where Dr Masisi’s father was when the BDP was formed by Seretse Khama.

“I am a founding member of the BDP and we have suffered for this party. Re tsamaya le wena,” she said to Khama. Another unidentified man wondered what was wrong with the 5th President of Botswana. “We are members of the BDP because of your father. Anywhere you go, we will go with you and if you delay in returning to us, we will have joined Bokwe (Boko) by the time you come,” he said. “The Bible says we should respect our fathers.

We should also respect our Dikgosi. It seems we are losing our culture. We are happy you came and will await your return,” said Lawrence Bodilonyane who also endorsed Khama’s project to decampaign the Masisi government ahead of the elections this October. Yet another unidentified man from Palapye assured Khama that the people of Palapye would not vote the BDP. “Even the people of Serowe will not vote the BDP because the party leadership has betrayed our Kgosikgolo,” he said. Kebaalotse Sethong from Lerala assured the meeting that he could never desert his Kgosikgolo. “We are in mourning because our MP (Prince Maele) has been suspended and we have asked him to contest as an independent candidate.

“Things are now clear because we have been wondering where you were when our party was being torn apart by the dogs,” said Sethong before promising Khama that wherever he goes, he too will follow him.

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Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments

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Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.

Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.

He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.

“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.

“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.

“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.

Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”

She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.

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Safe communities for our women and girls – Moalosi

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Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been identified as one of the critical issues that impede women, girls and men from fully enjoying their human rights and unleashing their potential. Delivering his State of the National Address (SONA) on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the rising statistics of those affected.

The National Relationship Study of 2018 revealed that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime, which occurred within Intimate Partner Relationships.

To address this problem, President Masisi says government will intensify the implementation of the National Strategy Towards Ending GBV. The Strategy focuses on the comprehensive care and support of GBV survivors; the Prevention of new GBV incidences; Strengthening national capacity to address GBV; Improving efficiency and effectiveness of the coordination and management of the national GBV response; and Strategic information and knowledge management on GBV.

Just last week, Botswana Non-Governmental Organisations represented at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, committed to ensuring that all is done to end GBV.CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, Lorato Moalosi who was presenting on behalf of Botswana NGOs said having reflected on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda since 1994 and on what has changed on Sexual GBV, they are equally disturbed by increasing levels of SGBV in Botswana communities.

Her desire is to empower communities to come up with their own solutions to end SGBV. Moalosi told participants at the Summit that NGOs in Botswana commit to contracting and ensuring robust community engagement, including starting indigenous and disability movements on SGBV to galvanise and mobilise communities to prevent and respond to SGBV. Their plan is to also develop sustained gender transformative programmes that mainstream HIV and GBV, as well as to expand reach and coverage of services and create community safe spaces for the hard to reach, as well as improve services in urban areas.

“We commit to utilising social contracting and ensure NGOs lead in the prevention of SGBV and in the response to ending SGBV at community level,” Moalosi said, adding that they also commit to mainstreaming gender equality conversations and break the silence on SGBV.

“We can no longer hold back. Our communities have to be safe for our women and girls,” she said. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 that concluded hursday last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi represents a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver.

“Together, we will make the next ten years a decade of action and results for women and girls, keeping their rights and choices at the centre of everything we do,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

Denmark’s Special Envoy for the ICPD25, Ambassador Ib Petersen said there will be no ICPD50 because women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices.

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