While equal gender representation in politics is still miles away in Botswana, women’s participation is slowly growing.
Gofaone Mabutho, a 28-year-old woman from Marapong is one of the few women councillors in Botswana. She toppled then incumbent councilor for her ward in the 2019 general elections, an impressive feat that has never been done before, especially considering that she is the first female councillor in Marapong and she is also a member of the opposition party coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
When asked about the presence of any prejudice towards her being a young female politician in her ward she said: “To be honest, apart from one or two people who say I am young, my gender has never been a factor. I think it is actually an advantage as women who make majority of economically and socially disadvantaged find it easier to relay their problems to me than they would to a man”.
She further pointed out that she has a good working relationship with the village leadership, social workers and other civil servants throughout the ward. Mabutho is the fourth councilor for the village and is the first woman to win against a male contestant in the elections. However, she declined to share the strategy she used to defeat her competitor to avoid people copying and using it to defeat her.
She attributed her win to hard work and her campaign manager, Motlhaleemang Moalosi who was brains behind the action plan for the campaign. She said it is the same plan they are going to use to deliver the Shashe West constituency to the UDC that is in the hands the ruling party Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the 2024 elections. “The first thing I did when I started work as a councillor was to have an office, something that was new then. I hired an office administrator who I am paying from my pocket. The idea was that when I am away on council business, people can always be assisted,” Mabutho explained.
She pointed out that most of their work as councillors is helping people with social security problems.
She further said she treats her role as a fulltime job as she is always on the ground, either in her office or going around the ward, meeting committees, community leaders and civil servants as a way to better appreciate the problems of her ward.
According to her, being a woman makes it easier for other women to approach her with their problems something that is good contribution to addressing the troubles in her but it also takes a financial toll on her as she sometimes has to use her own money to help buy food, toiletries and especially sanitary towels.
“As for the role plays in enabling us to venture into politics as women I do not think the media is doing enough to assist women to join politics and as you can imagine there are only two elected female councillors in Tutume Sub District,” she said. Although she said the media is only partly responsible as an enabler, she argued that it is important to note that a majority of voters have no access to independent media so there is little the media could do to that end.
Speaking on her choice of party and why she decided to contest the elections she said she attended a Botswana Congress Party (BCP) political rally and got sold due to party’s ground work resonating with what was said.
She admitted that currently there are no party structures in the ward or constituency and they are in the process of resuscitating them. She also pointed out that leading to the elections she was in the BCP Youth League, but had to resign as the 2019 campaign did not allow her to hold that position but is ready to serve wherever the party might see fit.