Emmah Mmereki – Botswana

Emmah Mmereki – Botswana

Date: June 30, 2015
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I work with the Gender Affairs department int he Ghanzi district, and it is my job to coordinate the gender and development policy. The focus of our work is on economic empowerment within the community, with a particular emphasis on women. However, we know that gender equality takes the support of both men and women, so we cater for everyone. Our work includes food packages, home-based care, vegetable gardening, and craftwork. To add to this, we have gender sensitization campaigns, like 16 days of activist, Women’s Day, and so on. We hold workshops and commemorations. This year, for the first time, we are going to commemorate International Men’s Day as well, to recognize that gender equality must be a collective effort.

We share information through lekgotla meetings; there, we call men and women to come, and tell them about the programs we have, and services that we offer. We also work with the community to try and see what viable projects we can establish, like marketing projects. In all of this, we work hand in hand with NGOs, faith based organizations, leaders on gender issues, and other stakeholders in the community to try and push our agenda forward with these partnerships. Through all of this, we monitor whether or activities are having an impact, by going back to the communities to see if there has been a difference.

Recently, we conducted a gender sensitization workshop for a culturally oriented community. They have a practice whereby when the husband of a woman dies, she is married to the brother of the late husband. They also have a practice whereby, at al early age, girls are betrothed to someone. The workshop was organized for chiefs, pastors, and other community cultural leaders. We really had an environment of respect. Nobody went in to impose ideas, but we wanted to understand how everything was working. What was working for the women in the community, and what did not work. In the end, they decided that as leaders, they would go out as a group, sit down with the community, and see how they could develop. They weren’t going to throw away their cultural practices, but they did want to look at how it could evolve, and include everyone’s rights. It made me really feel like we had made progress, and that there was ownership of the rights based agenda. I really appreciated seeing people trying to solve the gender inequalities within their own culture.

In all my work, I try and start with the community first. Even though it’s difficult, we are all entrenched in our cultures. But the future is bright, if culture can be a catalyst for change as well. It’s a challenge that some men really take pride in a patriarchal society. But, step by step, we’ll get there. We can’t have gender equality right now, but the change between now, and in the next 5 years, will be clear. We are already seeing change. Women interested in higher positions. Economic empowerment happening. Leaders in the community taking up the gender agenda. We are moving in the right direction.

I have learned so much, working with communities different from my own. It’s like coming to the Gender Links summit. I’ve learned so much. We can relate to each other, and learn about different strategies and contexts. That is empowering. We are all trying to make an impact in peoples lives. We all start small, but we make the difference that we can.


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