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UDC celebrates women

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) joins the rest of the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day whose International theme this year is, #Pressforprogress. This day is celebrated to acknowledge women’s achievements and seeks to strengthen the struggle for gender equality.

This day started off with just an observance on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America in New York. A year later, at the International Women’s Conference held in Copenhagen, the Socialist representatives pushed for the marking of International Women’s Day.

 Inspired by the New York celebrations, they used this as a tool to encourage equality and the right for women to vote. The day was then first celebrated in Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. It was agreed at this point that the celebrations be moved again  to March 8.

Since 1913, this day has been celebrated on March 8. The question that then emerges is, have we arrived? Have this trajectory borne any fruits? If not, why? Currently women and children in this country and around the world are still vulnerable and suffer abuse and exploitation at the hands of governments, other institutions and individuals.

According to the World Economic Forum, moving at the 2017 rate, it would take 100 years to close the gap between men and women while looking at the 2016 pace it would required 83 years using the efforts of everyone in society. To achieve our goals, it requires our collective effort as nations. We therefore call upon all citizens and different organisations to commit ourselves to fighting all forms of abuse at home, the workplace and in our society.

The UDC as a progressive organisation and a voice of the downtrodden makes a pledge to all to mobilise and be at the forefront of the fight against all forms of abuse in this country and also champion the development of programmes aimed at enhancing the status and welfare of women and children without fail.

As the vanguard of society, we will be actively participating in processes and activities aimed towards the creation of a society that values women and children in society and guarding against any form of violence. We shall continue to campaign against any patriarchal tendency that further oppresses women.

As a society we should not underestimate the entrenched sexism that continues to characterise our dominant culture. We still have sexualised violence and according to the UN, every third woman in the world will be exposed to serious violence at some time in her life. Most cases of abuse occur in the home and are perpetrated by a husband, a partner or a close relative.

Every fifth woman in the world is at some time exposed to rape or attempted rape, reports the UN. These various expressions of violence against women are all rooted in the hegemonic unequal patriarchal power order, whose men assume the right to control women. Despite the wide dispersal of the problem, it is given shamefully low priority when sharing out resources. In trying to resolve the issues around patriarchy, we need to find out how it came about. Why is it that women have been historically and systematically marginalised in structures that have to do with distribution of power? 

We need to probe if the introduction of quotas is a solution as many argue. Although, there is a consensus that quotas are necessary in the fight against this malady, there is however a point of disagreement beyond.

While some will argue that bringing down legal barriers is enough and will create an enabling environment for women to fully reach their aspirations, we believe that quotas in representation at all levels should be accompanied by a corresponding advancement or development in job creation, eradication of women abuse, poverty and many other ills that continue to bedevil the womenfolk. Head-counting on its own without real gains in the quality of ordinary women’s lives is not sufficient.

We should of course not underplay the importance of quotas as they lay a

firm foundation for allowing women to enter decision making chambers from within which they can push for the overhaul of patriarchal policy formulation machinery. Inclusion should be seen as a means to an end and not be seen as an end in itself.

As we transform our society and bring down those structures that have marginalised women, we should not overlook the family. In it we find strong patriarchal gender relations. The family is an important centre of socialisation.

Over the years, women have been impoverished due to the patriarchal nature of our society.  The BDP government policies have worsened their situation. Reduction in social spending by governments as a result of Washington consensus has worsened the positions of most women. Most of those in the informal, casual and atypical labour are women.

This situation affects them as labourers and care-givers in the home. Society continues to accrue huge benefits as a result of unpaid domestic, which is mostly undertaken by women. Therefore labour is reproduced cheaply at the expense of women. The BDP Government cost recovery policy is seriously affecting women as they are the most vulnerable. It further weakens their position.

For working class women to do wage work and house work undermines their place in the work place. Some employers choose to employ men as they won’t take time off to attend to their children.

 It is through the consistent and unwavering agitation on the part of the BNF that today women in Botswana (as the principal carers and child bearers) are compensated for taking time off to care for children in the form of maternity leave.

As we celebrate this achievement which was championed by the opposition which has always been the voice of the downtrodden, we need to look into other areas where women as centres of production and reproduction are not compensated.

Our failure to reward them properly will not remove women from poverty and abuse which they suffer from as a result of their weak economic position.

Capitalism as a system of accumulation and other injustices has to be challenged as it is no longer sensible to speak of gender equality and quotas only. Though patriarchy has been blamed for the situation in which we find women, it can not be singularly blamed for this scenario. Patriarchy also intersects with other identities like class and race.

When we eschew universalism we will notice that women may define themselves in many other ways outside their gender. Having a large number of women in positions of power therefore does not necessarily mean that we will rid society of patriarchy and its impacts.

The question that follows is whose interests do they serve? Can we boldly say that their background, e.g. class, race and ethnicity do not influence their outlook and performance in their roles. 

The question that then follows is, does it necessarily follow that having a woman in leadership position will transform the situation of women? We have seen some people arguing for greater women representation just because they want to personally benefit from the resultant appointments.

The notion that women are better guarantors of other women’s rights is shallow and more on the fallacious side. In fact certain women are regrettably more patriarchal than some men.

Of course representation of women is necessary and should not be open to debate. It is more of a tool for reform in the current gender insensitive capitalist society.

Properly instituted gender parity can provide solid bedrock from which substantive liberation of women can be advanced. We should have a gendered perspective which is not blind to class and ethnicity. Together we can make life better for our women and children. Let us change today! #PressForProgress.

*Moeti Mohwasa is UDC head of communications and BNF secretary general

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