Programme planning manager at NACA, Lillian Moremi, has said that NACA, together with the Department of Energy Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Home Affairs, stakeholders and partners have already started meeting in efforts to mainstream aspects of gender and HIV/AIDS into the production of EIAs for development projects in the country.
This is part of a regional initiative involving Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Rwanda.
Moremi said that as a developing country, Botswana is embarking on a number of infrastructural development projects in order to build a sustainable economy. However, there is growing evidence that these projects might increase the risk of HIV transmission as evidenced by increased HIV prevalence in some areas once the projects were completed.
She said that there is growing evidence showing that development projects, particularly infrastructure projects such as the construction of dams, major roads, power stations and new mines can facilitate the spread of HIV and AIDS and increase the vulnerability of women and girls. Moremi said that they believe that the EIA process has the potential to increase awareness in project receiving communities about the risks of HIV and put in place measures to avoid the spread of the virus.
"Whenever there is a development project coming into a community you would realise that before long women start to stay with the construction men at the camping site. And again before long there are children born out of such interactions. So we realised that women and the girl child are at a risk of getting infected due to the projects that come into the community. In a way, the EIA does not cater for the receiving communities," she said.
"Usually EIA say what the project will be about, and how it affects the environment and other components leaving out issues of HIV/AIDS and gender issues. Now we want EIAs to say what would be done to deal with the spread of the virus and gender issues," she said.
Moremi said that from this project they expect to enhance the ability of governments in the sub-region to integrate health, particularly HIV/AIDS and gender issues into the management of impact assessment processes.They hope to increase awareness on the negative relationship between HIV, gender and capital projects. The project also hopes to assist officials to plan, administer and manage impact assessments to HIV and gender issues, as part of their work more prominently. It would also assist environmental assessment practitioners to partner with others to more systematically consider HIV and gender in EIAs.
Moremi said that the project is made up of four faces, which will take more than a year to be completed. "We are in stage one. Countries are reviewing their legislations. This is to find out what our countries have and laws say regarding these issues. We would also review institutional laws. We would also be looking at case studies of projects that we have so far. Then we will be meeting in Johannesburg with SADC countries to discuss the way forward." she said.
In stage two, involved countries would have gathered data that would help them develop guidelines. Each country would be taking the guidelines back home and customise them. She said that they would also introduce HIV/AIDS and gender into EIA curricula.
Stage three would be the time to run pilot projects, where monitoring and assessments would be important. "We will be able to identify gaps, revise policies and curricula. We would also be training EIA trainers."
In stage four revised policies would be rolled out to the public. "We would continue with capacity building and awareness campaigns at this stage," Moremi said.