Women politicians across all party spectrum are calling on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to appoint an equal number of women to their male countreparts to the Constitution Review Commission. The women want him to ensure that the process is inclusive and delivers gender equality. The first of the Botswana leg of the five-day participation in the politics training academy was held in Palapye this week.
“In fact we call for a total overhaul of the Constitution because it is too old. We need a Constitution that will be aligned with the way things are in 20 years to come. Life has completely changed and even the way people used to live. If you look into this Constitution, a lot of things in it are stereotyping women,” she said.
During the State of the Nation Address (SONA), Masisi announced that he will appoint commissioners to lead the constitutional review, which was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, by mid-December this year.
Women’s Political Participation (WPP) Cross-Generation Academy participants in the Central District commended the recognition in the SONA that “gender equality is pivotal to the development of Botswana.” However, they underscored that it is time to “walk the talk of gender equality”.
However, Chinyepi said women meeting in Palapye are calling for the new Constitution to do the following; change of the electoral system in Botswana, to mixed member representation, drawing on the advantages of both the First Past The Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representative (PR) system, provide for a 50% candidate quota regardless of the electoral system, extensive advocacy and awareness on the importance of women’s equal and effective participation in politics, especially at the local level, the coalface of service delivery, capacity building for women, especially young women, to run for political office and become effective agents of change and fund political parties.
Meeting held under the banner of “local action for gender justice”, the women from all five of the main political parties (Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are serving and aspiring councillors and Members of Parliament (MPs) for the 2024 elections.
With just two elections until 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the representation of women in the Botswana Parliament has increased by just one percentage point from 10% in 2014 to 11% in 2019.
Still, on the matter, Chinyepi said the aim of the training is to capacitate women who are 35-years-old and below who are interested in contesting for elections in 2024 general election.
“Our aim is to increase the number of women in Parliament and council. As such, we had to empower these women so that they could be able to face men when contesting without being intimidated.
Therefore, they need to be taught politics and how they should communicate even at rallies. The main challenge for women is funding and we are teaching them techniques they could use to save money for elections whether internal or not,” she said.
Only seven women made it to the Botswana Parliament following the general elections held on October 23, 2019. Only three women were elected from the 57 seats during the elections. The additional four women out of six seats were appointed and confirmed as Specially Elected MPs. Women’s political representation at the national level in Botswana is the lowest in the SADC region.
At the local government level, representation is slightly higher at 18%, but still well below the SADC target of 50%. Rather than progress, the country has seen regression in women’s representation since it peaked in 1999 at 18% for national and 23% for local government.
A situation analysis conducted by Gender Links in 2020 found a range of formal and informal barriers to WPP in Botswana, including culture, custom, religion and tradition, lack of support, socialisation, the electoral system and lack of a quota, the media, access to finance and resources and violence against women in politics.