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In Our First Citizens, Our Children Are Safe

PAMELA DUBE KELEPANG
As we arrive here, December 10, the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, which is also the day commemorating human rights, we have to look back and reflect.

Did we, during the two weeks and two days, achieve anything significant in the commemoration and reflection of socio and health issues such as HIV/AIDS, disability, and gender based violence (GBV)?

I say we have. Yes, we tend to engage on these issues around this time, and throughout the year, it’s business as usual. Having been on this course, working on the gender agenda, children’s rights, and people with disability, I can safely say I know and I have seen how our government, people and the world over tackle these issues. 

I have, as I like doing when engaging in my writings, personal stories to share. I recall that in my 20s, without an inkling that one day I would be semi-disabled, walking with a slight limp due to an auto-immune condition, I wrote in an internationally published booklet a poem titled ‘Me and My Disability’ more in honour of my late friend Kgololo Batho Nchinchi Makgekgenene, who was born with a deformed (shortened) leg.

I have sat through sessions, and counselled, with no training of any sort, abused, sexually and physically, women and children. I have been to police stations in the middle of the night; both here and in my stay in Johannesburg responding to a call to help raped victims, mostly Batswana students in South Africa.

I have been part of the battle for years for children’s rights, and the battle against HIV and AIDS. So, I know what I am talking about. For, amongst other things, I have participated in the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism, and have closely observed how our leaders – ministers, MPs, councillors, ministers (of

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government and the cloth), Dikgosi and the President, amongst others, observe and engage on the days.

 

We follow the leader

As we know, the people’s response to anything reflects the leaders’. Take the period of former president Festus Mogae. His priority was HIV and AIDS. The nation and the world at large, was faced with a scourge.

Those infected had the shortest lifespan and funerals were held throughout the days of the week. He rose, focussed not only ensuring there was widespread communication on prevention and fighting stigma, but importantly, that there was immediate provision of life-saving drugs.

He took to the world seeking not just anti-retroviral therapy, but also the much-needed funds to save the nation. So, December 1, was Mogae’s number one day, and he used it effectively to take on the fight. All other issues took a back seat. Then came president Ian Khama. Looking at issues of commemoration, I am sorry to say I can’t allocate anything to our recent past leader.  As a military man, and an environmental campaigner of note, the best Khama could do was to deliver a speech there and there, and then we slowly moved back to life as we knew it. Unfortunately, the indifference in the leader, saw the reverse of the gains in the fight against HIV, GBV and neglect of vulnerable groups such as orphans and people with disabilities. With shortage of resources, moreso with Botswana losing donor funding due to being declared a middle income country, meant these commemorations achieved little, and structures collapsed.

The less said about the last 10 years the bette



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