Mmegi Blogs :: Early Gaborone and its women pioneers
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Early Gaborone and its women pioneers

Amongst the many aspects of the Gaborone of the 1960s and early 1970s that made it such an interesting place, was that women should have been so conspicuous in leadership roles.
By Sandy Grant Wed 10 Aug 2016, 15:50 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Early Gaborone and its women pioneers








Grace Dambe was Deputy Mayor in the first Town Council and became Mayor in 1969. Jeanette Nwako was also a member of the first Council and later became Deputy Mayor, Eleanor Gabaake became an elected councillor in 1969, Rosinah Mannathoko was Mayor between 1974 and 1976 and again in 1978 and, around the same time, but in a different area of public life, Gaositwe Chiepe was Director of Education. Fortunately Janet Hermans knew and admired several of these distinguished ladies and wrote about Victoria Namane in an article in the Kutlwano of November 1974.

Later, she was to help Frieda Matthews produce her autobiography, Remembrances. In summarised form Janet told us that Namane who was born in Kanye in 1901, was a member of Gaborone’s Preparatory Committee and the first woman to be appointed a High Court Assessor. Her grandmother, Gagoangwe Sechele, was married to Bathoen 1. Mrs Namane remembers the First World War when she and others in Kanye knitted socks for the troops. She also remembers the flu epidemic of 1918. Although only 17 at the time, she used to accompany the magistrate’s wife in helping the sick. The magistrate owned one of the only two cars in Kanye at the time, the other belonging to the chief. She began teaching in 1922, after three years at Tiger Kloof. 

She loved music and singing and surprisingly even played tennis – presumably when she was at Tiger Kloof. For a few years in

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the 1930s she gave up teaching for nursing being trained at the SDA Hospital in Kanye. After marriage, however, she concentrated on the needs of her new family. In 1936 she and her husband moved to Tlokweng. After retirement, she continued teaching at the Assemblies of God nursery school in Gaborone.  For her remarkable contributions to the community over so many years and for her involvement with the Botswana Council of Women, the Red Cross and Girl Guides she was awarded by Queen Elizabeth a Certificate of Honour and badge in 1963 and in 1969 by President Seretse Khama a medal for Meritorious Service.

From Frieda Matthews book, Remembrances, I offer just one small extract which tells us much about her and about the Gaborone that once existed. ‘I was given a Type 3 house, which was quite a distance from the library where I worked, and I was therefore forced to buy a car, a Mini, which I used for many years.  I was quite a spectacle to many people as women were rarely seen driving a car then.’ Looking back at those ladies, one can wonder why 31 years elapsed after Rosinah Mannathoko’s Mayorship before another women, Veronica Lesole in 2009, assumed the same office? Society as a whole has obviously experienced enormous change in the last 40 years but have these changes  worsened, rather than improved the situation of women?  If so, there is something disturbingly wrong.

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