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Women at the tail end

A political expert has expressed disappointment at the state women politicians in Botswana find themselves in. University of Botswana lecturer in politics and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi responding to Mmegi questions this week concurred that gender inequality is a global phenomenon that is worse in developing countries.

“Botswana is no exception to the norm. In Botswana, all political parties experience perpetual patterns of inequality amongst women,” he told Mmegi this week. Women are at the tail end of civic and political participation.

Mfundisi said the situation is exacerbated by socio-economic and cultural barriers, which disadvantage women from competing with men on a level playing landscape. He conceded that there are fewer women in Botswana elected to political office, be it in Cabinet, Parliament, and Local Government. It is a given that women participation in electoral politics as voters is significant but insignificant in terms of being elected to political office. The patriarchal culture dominates the political, economic, and social landscape in Botswana. “Women have been relegated to domestic life. Social norms and role expectations coupled with lack of education and resources have been obstacles to women active involvement in civic and political activities. These, amongst other factors, have marginalised women in politics and therefore, incapacitate them to effectively compete for public office,” said the UB lecturer.

“Some women, it must be admitted have the prerequisite skills and professional experiences required to hold public office, voters (including women) are not willing and supportive of women candidates,” he added. Traditional roles of women (wife and mother) disadvantage women from competing at par with their male counterparts. Lack of society and family support for women candidates is glaring in Botswana. Institutional structures within political parties influence who eventually gets elected to office.

There exists a self-selection process in political parties in Botswana. The gatekeepers determine who gets nominated and elected to political office. Selectors assume that male candidates are likely to be successful in winning the hearts and minds of voters in elections. Women receive little support from the political leadership, party rank and file, and voters to successfully compete in the electoral and party politics. Mfundisi noted that if the information Mmegi provided to him on the BCP nomination process recently is verifiable, it is the betrayal of women emancipation from the yoke of patriarchal domination. Bathusi is vying for the second highest office in the BCP as a vice president candidate

and the UB academic posits that as the vanguard of women active participation in political processes, the Women’s League is expected to support unconditionally a woman candidate for the vice presidency.

He feels that this would have been historic in the history of the BCP and Botswana political development at large. His strong view is that the league missed an opportune time to send a strong signal to the political elite the need for empowerment of women in all spheres of life.

He observed: “Political parties are gatekeepers of the electoral process. BCP, and all political formations must adopt party quotas to accommodate women. Women are in majority in Botswana and play a significant role in elections. This is, unfortunately, not reflected in women elected to public office.“ He is adamant that the BCP should do better as a progressive organisation by opening its highest structure to women. Furthermore, he is of the view that women must champion their own emancipation and active participation in politics. He challenged the Women’s League as an internal party organ in the BCP to promote women active engagement in electoral process and politics.

“It unequivocally promotes women’s interests in party policy platforms. It must strengthen the demand for women’s representation in party nominations and elections,” he said. “Women’s League should be an effective base to pave way for women’s involvement into mainstream leadership positions. It should never be a barrier to woman entry into leadership positions. It should have the core objective of building women’s political and leadership skills,” he added. 

Mfundisi conceded that numerically women are the largest voting bloc in Botswana and if they can use their critical mass, they can change the political landscape in the country. Gender socialisation explains lower level of women’s participation in political space. “Women are socialised to gender roles that promote passivity, submissiveness, subordination, and privacy. Men, on the other hand, are groomed for leadership roles.

This patriarchal political culture leads to under-representation of women in political spheres. Women voters have affinity to male candidates. They view politics as masculine domain insulated from female members of society,” he surmised.




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