Fred Nkonde – Botswana

Fred Nkonde – Botswana

Date: June 30, 2015
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“I started perceiving life differently, even the issue of a woman earning more money than a man. In Africa and for me personally there was no way than a woman could have more money than a man, then that marriage is not going to last. The perception now that I have is that I’m equal to a female counterpart, even if she earns more money”.

Fred Nkonde, Chief Health Inspector at Kalulushi Municipal Council, got in contact with Gender Links last year through a  COE training about gender. The training was an eye opener to Nkonde in many ways, both at a personal and professional level.

“After that training we realised that there was segregation when it comes to land matters, there was no information about the statistics on women having access to land, no statistics about how many women are employed on casual bases, and as a council we perceived certain works to be only for men, like drainage clearing, waste management and construction work. And also on procurement, there was no deliberate effort to promote women or give them contracts. After that training, I vividly remember what we needed to put in place in order to empower our women.”

Nkonde himself was brought up in a traditional way. “The way I was brought up as a boy, my parents used to tell me ‘You are a boy, you are not supposed to cry.” Thanks to the training with Gender Links he is now able to see and reflect on the gender stereotypes that boys and girls are exposed to from the day they are born. “As a girl you learn to be humble and to observe. During family meetings you should be silent and not air your views.” To reach gender equality, the way children are raised has to be changed. “We should encourage the girl to be strong, assertive and confident. The boy child should learn to be humble, boys have to learn how to resolve things peacefully and not engaging in violence, not to be cheeky and to have a loving and caring heart.”

Nkonde believes that the key to promoting gender equality in the council is to get the management  on board. “First and foremost, what has to be in place is a gender policy, which all the employees of the council have to fully understand, and management has to follow that policy. Management has to be at the forefront of implementing the policy, and when drafting the policy there has to be consultation with other stakeholders so the content is not biased”.

In the hygiene and sanitation area that Nkonde works, there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to challenging gender stereotypes. “The hygiene concept is left to a woman. We believe that a woman must ensure that a house is clean, that there’s clean water, food in prepared. A man is not concerned about the nutrition aspect, the cleanliness of the house. When it comes to hygiene, also men should be in the forefront”.

David Mwansa, Chief Community Development Officer, has worked closely with Fred on different sanitation projects and he can see a big difference in the way they worked before and after the training with Gender Links. “Previously, these kinds of projects were done by men, but we sat down after the gender training we had in Lusaka last year. Let us also bring the women aboard so we adopted a gender strategy which talks about equality between men and women.”

This change in attitude has been seen by other employees in the council. “When it comes to gender, the health department that has got the largest number of workers; he has done very well in that he has being involving female counterparts as well as the men folks in terms of sanitation,” says Evelyn, who works together with David as a Chief Community Development officer. She appreciates Nkonde’s commitment and involvement when it comes to gender.

“We work a lot with women’s clubs and when we have workshops we usually invite him to facilitate. The last time we had a workshop in entrepreneurship he encouraged them to be able to use their hands to sustain their lives and meet their basic needs and that work perceived to be men’s work also can be done by women.”

Through Gender Links, Nkonde came in contact with the SADC gender protocol. A challenge he sees is that people is the community lack knowledge of the protocol.  “We need people going down to the grassroots to explain what it’s all about, then you’re going to see a change.” He thinks that Gender Links should be out in the villages more. Fred also suggest that Gender Links should find a way of assessing the work of the Gender Focal Point to better be able to track progress in the councils. He also highlights the importance of regular follow ups to find out what happens after employees have attended Gender Links training.

When it comes to the 50/50 target, Fred believes that a lot of work needs to be done and that men have to take more responsibility. “It has to start with the culture, we hold on to our culture and norms so much and that is dangerous and it will not help us to achieve the 50/50 target. Women has to be more confident, but if the environment is not creating room for her to take place there will be no change”.

At the moment Fred is trying to incorporate gender issues into the concept of community led total sanitation. This is a concept of which Kalulushi council has agreed to adopt.

“Sanitation should not only be a woman thing, basically I want to bring the men aboard as well.” With woman and men working hand in hand Fred believes that a lot of improvements can be done in the sanitation area which would save many lives.

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