Same Bathobakae – Botswana

Same Bathobakae – Botswana

Date: July 1, 2015
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Always impeccably turned out, Same Bathobakae, Secretary General of the BNF Women’s League, new Chairperson of the South East District Council (SEDC) and BNF councillor (Tloweng) exudes quiet confidence and humility. When she became a councillor in 2004 she was the only woman from opposition. She says she told herself “I am going to show them I can do my work, I have no fear.”

She has a special interest in law and her work experience includes working with three law firms. She has a competency in conveyancing and undertook secretarial studies, which has stood her in good stead over time in her work as a councillor. She has always wanted to promote the rights of individuals, for example, seeing men and women in her community having access to access to and control of land.

Her vision as the new Chairperson of SEDC is to encourage more people to participate in council and see how councillors contribute to change and represent their interests. This will go a long way towards increasing the accountability of the councillors to the constituents. She also wants to work with council staff to make sure that project implementation improves and that projects are completed on time. A project she is proud of, and which is the subject of one of her first motions, is the grading and tarring of a road with special interlocking bricks to prevent water logging. It is the first road of its kind in Tlokweng and will go a long way towards easing the problems with road access in the area.

Another achievement she is proud of is when, in early 2008, she defeated a motion of no confidence by the ruling party of the then chair and vice chair of the council. She demonstrated her ability to follow due process and foster democracy where her colleagues had given up. By sticking to the letter of the Standing Orders of Council, she was able to use the process to highlight the importance of transparent and credible processes within council.

Bathobakae’s experiences as councillor and now as Chairperson of council, will no doubt pave the way for more concrete work to change the quality of lives of men and women in Tlokweng and elsewhere. She has faced challenges and has remained unfazed because, as she put it “I was born a leader”.

In spite of being the only woman chairperson of a district council. Yet her election was seemingly a non event. She recounts how the electronic coverage of her acceptance speech blanked out key points she made about women and leadership, including the significance of her election on gender and governance in the country. She also noted the absence of her face and voice in the print media which profiled her party’s success and not hers.

Bathobakae’s frustration with negative media coverage is shared by other women politicians, and must be addressed squarely as a strategy for advancing women’s agenda to achieve success in the political arena. She also highlighted some of the financial issues she faced when she was mobilising to be elected as councillor. For example, she did not have a car and she had to use personal resources to support the community such as buying food at funerals, providing crockery and cutlery at gatherings and providing her neighbours with access to her electrical supply when needed.



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