Flora Mpetsane – Botswana

Flora Mpetsane – Botswana

Date: June 26, 2012
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I’m a councilor for Matsiloge in Botswana, which is in the Northeastern District. At the council level, I’m the vice chairperson of the Northeastern District. I started my involvement with Gender Links through BALA in 2008, when the women’s commission was launched. At that launch, I was elected as a deputy women’s commissioner. That’s when my journey really started on gender issues.

As women commissioners, we were trained by BALA on gender issues. We were also empowered on a range of issues, including mainstreaming gender, campaigning, and media issues. The media training was particularly useful for us; we learned the importance of interacting with the media as women, and also practical skills, like how to write up press releases. This was at a time when we were starting to campaign for political office in the 2009 elections. The training assisted us, because it empowered us as women, and gave us a head start. The political field can be a rough arena. It has many challenges, and it’s important to have sources of support as we stand our ground, especially during the campaign period.

I took part in further training, as a facilitator for gender in local government. This brought me into a group that went around the country training councils on gender issues. This was such a rewarding experience for me. I can see now, looking at a Gender Links Summit, that there are quite a number of COEs from Botswana, and I know I was part of this journey, and that I contributed to their success. This gives me a sense of accomplishment, and pride that their achievement is my achievement.

In my view, the impact of both Gender Links and BALA can be felt from the national level, right down to the ward level. In my work, when we are in meetings, we bring the issue of gender to the forefront to empower our local communities. So far, we’ve done a workshop on leadership facilitated by Gender Links, and you can see the difference.

At the council level, all councilors have been trained, which means the group is well versed on gender. Of course, perceptions don’t disappear over night; but it’s something that we all know we need to deal with on a daily basis. You can’t ever say the work is done, but we can acknowledge progress. For example, now we find that when issues are tabled, most men will contribute actively on issues of gender. Before, they assumed it was something for women. That has improved a lot.

Cultural issues still pose a real challenge. They strengthen certain false perceptions, and they are very deeply entrenched. We’ve found that we need to bring people on board gradually; things don’t change over night. We have to stay constantly engaged, holding workshops, talking to people on a daily basis, getting feedback, and having many channels of communication, depending on how people will be receptive to our messages.

This is connected to the issue of GBV, which remains an issue locally. There is a lot of alcohol abuse, which perpetuates violence in the home. At the council level, there is a lot of commitment to address GBV, but sometimes we find financial constraints, which can slow progress. For example, we’re currently working on community trainings in the area. We have 43 villages in our district, and we’ve managed to have trainings in one cluster, but there are many remaining. Those who are trained need to use every possible opportunity to train others, but it takes time, particularly in areas with low literacy rates, and many different views on gender and GBV.

My hope for the future is that we’ll be able to facilitate trainings, and eventually, infuse the school curriculum with gender issues, so that children, from the time they are young, will be aware of gender. Creating awareness in young people is effective, while changing the minds of adults is more difficult. The roadmap to equality should start from the beginning. I also hope that gender plans should be integrated into the budget not just by one ministry, but by all. This includes local authorities having a financial plan to include gender issues. We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.


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