The reality is that the virus, COVID-19 has not had as much of a negative impact on Botswana, or Batswana as the lockdown which was imposed as a result of the virus, has.
Of the fewer than 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases, there has only been one death juxtaposed to the twelve recoveries at the time that this piece is published.
Besides the first few cases, there has been no disclosure of the genderedness of the positive results. Scientists and experts conducting various rapid tests and researches around the globe, on different scientific, social, economic, political, and even cultural matters, have generally found that covid-19 strikes men more than women.
The lockdown, or rather the very extreme social distancing, which started on April 2, 2020, on the other hand, has affected everyone in the country.
The extent of the effects varies, and is dependent on various factors. This piece categorically explores the extent to which the lockdown has affected most women in Botswana. This piece is premised on an understanding of a number of factors. The first, is that as at 2018, according to statistics published by Statistics Botswana, there were a total of about 1.17 million women in the country, and 1.09 men.
This is shared simply to illustrate that there are more women in the country than men. Secondly in 2016, Professor T. Modesto published an article titled Women and Leadership in Botswana Agriculture, in which it was shared that agriculture provides for, and account for the livelihood of more than 80% of the population. The third understanding is that women in Botswana, as in most African countries, dominate the informal sector.
In the most recent report on this, women comprised 88.1% of informal sector workers. In addition to this, women make up 77.1% of ‘hotels and restaurant’ workers. The “informal sector” is a concept coined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to group and identify the activities of the poor. The final understanding taken by this piece is one which over arches the above is one which insists on the socio-economic impacts of lockdown on women being regarded in terms of ‘livelihoods’. Livelihoods is a term which considers the means by which people secure what the need for life.
As such, it does not look at whether or not people are employed. The reason for taking this perspective is that many people in the formal and informal sectors are employed in family businesses, or enterprises. That often means their compensation is usually less than independent individual workers.
Further, many more women than men are either underemployed, earning far below what would, or should be considered a living wage in Botswana; or are employed in unregulated sectors, where statistics are usually more difficult to distill. Many people in Botswana can hardly afford to support their own subsistence, rental costs, or even pay for food.
Employment, or unemployment rate therefore, creates an illusionary position, as opposed to the realistic perspective, which requires most urgent action. An assumption that many people are employed, blind to their livelihoods and their means of sustaining the same, the result is merely a
The above being noted, it is now important to start venturing into the issues considered by this piece. There are ways in which the lockdown affects women, more adversely than men.
- The increase of household chores and care
Often, the dance between maitseo and botho results in an understanding of caring for family members as compulsory for women, and selective for men in the family. With many workplaces and every school in the country being closed, there is an increased pressure on mothers, to not only be mothers, employees (albeit from home), but also cooks with expected daily updates to particular Facebook cooking groups.
This has invariably increased the chores in the home.
Many household helpers have had to return home, in social distancing efforts. These, and various other factors have, more than doubled the load of work women need to do.
A repeated cycle of cook, feed, wash, clean, work, work, work, work, cook clean, ensure the entrenchment of patriarchal expectations of, especially nuclear families who are locked down together. Where children are part of the picture, and parents have to step in, in a society where a man being a father is considered, “helping out”, it is almost unimaginable what mothers are facing.
- Domestic violence in lockdown
The Botswana police service has recorded many domestic and gender-based violence cases. These have included intimate partner femicide, and attempted murders. Where the perpetrator is a family member, it is almost impossible to even assist in many of the cases.
The typical cycle of domestic violence is often marred by a desire by the survivor to have the violence stop, without endangering the perpetrator’s future with insistences of withdrawn cases. Lockdown restrictions however, have made it even more challenging to seek help. Abused women are unable to leave their homes. Where men are the primary earners in the family, women find themselves subjected to layered challenges.
The 2018 Botswana Relationship Study disclosed that a minimal fraction of gender based violence cases are reported, generally. With the present conditions when many people gave to stay home with their perpetrators, domestic violences have been on the rise.
Although local organisations are continuously making efforts to help where they can, this help is often not enough. Many survivors cannot be assisted because of the limitations of the organisations.
The above two factors have started to illustrate the ways in which the lockdown has made being a woman much more challenging and risky.
Mma Boipelego alone will not have the capacity to even deal with these impacts as they have now taken on the role of food provision. It is therefore critical for our government, in focusing on COVID-19 response, to critically engage with the genderedness of the effects of lockdown. The following pieces will explore these in a more in-depth manner, centering livelihood, and looking at how, restricting the eviction of people from their residences alone, will not suffice.