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Gay community gradually finding acceptance among Batswana

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In recent years the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) community is becoming more visible and accepted by Botswana’s population. This was said by organisers of the annual Batho Ba Lorato film festival in an interview with The Midweek Sun. The festival, now on its sixth year, is aimed at informing, educating and celebrating sexual and gender diversity. The festival was hosted by the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGAGIBO), the advocacy organisation at the forefront of promoting awareness and acceptance of LGBTI community, with the support of the German, Goeth Institite, that supports cultural exchanges. According to one of the organisers of the film festival and communication officer for LEGAGIBO Bradley Fortuin, the reception has been positive.

He indicated that Batswana were warming up to homosexuals and were becoming comfortable with accepting them and engaging in dialogue on homosexuality in the society. He pointed out that the film festival had grown in leaps and bounds due to the public interest and willingness to engage the community in the society. “When we started out we held it at University of Botswana but we have now moved to New Capitol Cinema, a move that marks growth. We are getting a lot of support and we are seeing many people being open about their sexuality, and trying to understand the struggles that homosexuals deal with.” The film festival, which is free to the public, included discussion on different topics related to the gay community and most prominently, featured films such as Inxeba:

The Wound, which has been banned in mainstream cinemas across neighbouring South Africa. Fortuin said they had been in touch with the producers of the controversial film who helped them bring it here. “We screened the film since it has not been banned in Botswana,” he said. He added that it was sometimes important to engage the public on “uncomfortable” issues that go against the grain. Fortuin said that unlike before, there were now several platforms for homosexuals and their families to get support. “We are seeing many people coming out of the closet and expressing their sexual identity,” he said. Fortuin insisted that although homosexuality was still taboo in some aspects of society, it was nothing new but it was only now that people were beginning to come out and express their sexual identity freely.

Botswana is one of the countries that do not recognise homosexuality, however, unlike in other African countries there have not been cases of violence and killings of homosexuals. Homosexuality is still considered taboo and unnatural in “conservative and traditional” Botswana. According to Botswana law, same-gender sexual activities are illegal. However, in recent years there have been hallmark changes, including the court ruling in 2016 that ordered that the LGBT community be allowed to register their organisation. Last year, the courts ruled that at least two transgender individuals be allowed to change their gender markers.

One of them, Ricki Kgositau, who waged a landmark case against government, got married to her Congolese partner in Cape Town, South Africa, last year. Kgositau was born male but fully transitioned into a woman two years ago. Homosexuals in Botswana also faced wrath in 2016 when US based Faithful Word Baptist Church controversial leader Pastor Steven Anderson, who had come to Botswana on a visit, insulted gays and referred to them as cockroaches. He was subsequently kicked out of the country. In a separate incident, opposition politician Haskins Nkaigwa came under fire after he allegedly said that “homosexuals took all the plum corporate jobs in Botswana,” implying that economic homosexuality was the order of the day in the country. In both cases, LEGAGIBO issued strongly worded statements to criticise the continued attack on homosexuals. A

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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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