Patrick Manthe – Botswana

Patrick Manthe – Botswana

Date: July 13, 2013
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I am a people’s representative, a council chairman and my job entails being involved in policy issues, overseeing councillors in their jobs, and monitoring what they are doing. I’m also the gender focal person at the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA). I have been in politics for the past 15 years, and I’m currently the chairperson of the Mogoditshane and Thamaga sub district.

My first encounter with Gender Links was quite confusing to me. I did not understand what they were all about, and what they wanted from me. All I saw was a group of angry people, I felt that they were just a lobby for women. But after listening to what they had to say, they hooked me from that moment on, because they made me realise that in our country the ground on gender has never been level.

I really had a lightbulb moment when I was conducting a workshop in the Chobe district. During my presentation, a male councillor stood up, and said I was doing a job that could only be done by losers. He told me I should see a psychiatrist before I go mad. He thought my situation was so serious that I had mental problems, because I talked so passionately about the rights of women. It goes to show how much progress we still have to make on gender justice.

Living in an abusive society is like living in a society that does not exist. People do not know what they really want. I am fighting to live in a society that is free, and exists for its improvement.

To make a difference, I travel around different councils throughout the country, sensitizing politicians on the importance of mainstreaming issues of gender in everything they do. Since I’ve started, I’ve really started to see that most politicians are now taking gender issues seriously, and they are trying to incorporate them into their plans and policies. Even job posts are now more open to gender equality. A good example comes from the Chobe district, where they have hired a male cleaner. That would have been unheard of in the past.

I like being able to make a difference, by informing people about the importance of getting away from abusive and discriminatory environments. It has allowed many people to lead more progressive lifestyles. I do my best to give people mindsets that are free to the limitless possibilities the world has to offer.

One of my most challenging moments was when I was conducting a workshop. By coincidence, this workshop was held at the same time as the ruling party’s national congress in Tsabong. It was very hard to communicate a substantive message on gender, because councillors believed I was campaigning for the ruling party candidate; because she was a woman, it confused the situation even further. That experience made me realize that we have such a long way to go. At the same time, it has made me more determined to go forward and bring people into the light.

The national gender justice summit was one of my most positive experiences. It really marked how far we’ve come as a country in terms of combatting Gender Based Violence. Gender Links really came to Botswana at the right time. It was a time when the nation needed to be shown the way. When they first came, I was blank; but they have managed to feed me with all the information I have, and thanks to them, I am now able to hold workshops on my own, and pass on the knowledge I gained from them. There are certain cultural practices, and even constitutional laws which need to be revised, because they make it difficult to deal with women and men on the same level. But one step at a time, we are contributing to change.

I have gained a lot from Gender Links’ wide experience. We have trained trainers. Int he past, gender was never on the radar of local government. It never occured to us that gender was an important issue. Now, it is very evident to us that this is a priority area. You can see this change happening as we speak. In leadership speeches, gender is showing up. Gender is making an appearance now in policies, and in budgets. We get a lot of buy in from councils, and this itself is a big triumph. When people are taking up gender as their own cause, we see our work has taken a life of its own. I know gender isn’t just driven by me, but it’s everyone’s priority.

My role models are Ntsabane and Ludo Matshameko. I learned from them and have even taken over from other trained trainers; I now make a difference knowing what I want to achieve. It is so important to make a difference in both women and men’s lives because they need to support each other to fight poverty, hence forming one strong nation. I think my work is making a difference, and it is starting to rub off on people around me. Now, they know what I am all about, and even want to follow in my footsteps. My future plans are to continue being active. Even after politics, I will continue to work on achieving zero tolerance of GBV, both in Botswana and beyond. Government must get more involved, and assist more in gender programs. By providing all that they can to work on gender, all their other areas of work will be stronger.

Organisations like Gender Links deserve to be supported more and more. We are starting to do this now, through working in partnership. Everyone brings what they have to the table. Some organisations have expertise, some have money, some have connections to the community, or legitimacy. We all bring what we have, and look at what we can contribute to gender equality. It saddens me that there are so few men supporting the work of Gender Links. More men should realise that gender isn’t an issue of women. It’s about all of our rights, collectively, as a community. Men and women need to work together.


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