Drones Protect Botswana's MothersChildbirth in Botswana carries high risks, especially because remoteness threatens safe deliveries for women. If complications arise, it can take hours to transport patients to adequate medical facilities. The lengthy travel time to get medical assistance can prove lethal. In response, the U.N. devised a solution involving drone technology. Drones protect Botswana’s mothers by delivering essential medical supplies. Excessive bleeding is a primary cause of maternal mortality and medical drones can now deliver blood to women who need it. In May 2021, Botswana became the third African nation to implement the Drones For Health project in order to improve maternal health.

Botswana’s Maternal Mortality Rate

Prior to Botswana’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, the country had one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Since then, abundant resources and an adept government significantly reduced poverty. Botswana is now considered an upper-middle-income country. However, childbirth risks remain high. Botswana’s 2019 maternal mortality rate was 166 deaths per 100,000 births.

While the worldwide maternal mortality rate dropped by nearly half from 1990 to 2010, progress has been slower in many sub-Saharan African countries. Through projects like Drones For Health, Botswana works toward a 2025 goal of reducing its maternal mortality rate to 71 deaths per 100,000 births.

How Maternal Mortality Impacts Poverty

Maternal mortality harshly impacts poverty as a mother is often a central figure in a household and in society, taking on multiple functions and responsibilities. Surviving children often drop out of school in order to fulfill household obligations or take on employment to compensate for lost household income due to a mother’s death. Children without mothers often have deficient health outcomes because they are less likely to be immunized and often do not receive adequate healthcare when sick. Furthermore, due to the severe economic challenges of losing a mother, some young girls are forced to marry early.

The Drones For Health Initiative

Botswanan academics and government officials worked with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to put the Drones For Health initiative in motion. The medical drones have launch pads in four locations across the country, all situated next to healthcare facilities. The drones protect Botswana’s mothers by completing quick deliveries of blood. As long as the cargo is less than two kilograms, the drones can also carry medications and other medical supplies. Medical drones are also able to bypass infrastructure limitations such as uneven roads or missing bridges. These barriers prevent land-based vehicles from delivering blood to remote areas. In addition to providing a life-saving service, the battery-powered drones cause much less pollution than a land vehicle making the same trip.

Poverty is the main predictor of women’s endangerment during deliveries. Without traveling to medical facilities or hiring a midwife, childbirth becomes exponentially more difficult and risky. Botswana’s medical drone project exemplifies the benefits of creative and tech-savvy strategies to reduce maternal mortality.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Unsplash

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Botswana
The AIDS crisis shook the world in the 1980s, but some countries, including Botswana, are still trying to find their footing in terms of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Botswana has been a struggle, but the country is taking the right steps forward to fight the virus.

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Botswana

Botswana has the fourth-highest rate of HIV in the world, with a rate of 20.3%. In 2000, the peak rate was 26.3% and rates have decreased every year since. The National AIDS Coordinating Agency created a treatment plan to offer universal free antiretroviral treatment (ART), making Botswana the first country in the Southern African region to do so. This effectively reduced the rates of HIV in Botswana.

This first strategy for treatment is simple. The test and treat strategy gives people who test positive for HIV access to immediate treatment. With enough treatment, HIV levels can become so low that they are undetectable on a test. However, this does not mean treatment should be stopped. Continued treatment is necessary in order to maintain an “undetectable viral load,” which means the chance of a person transmitting HIV is zero.

Women and HIV/AIDS

More than half (56%) of people who have HIV in Botswana are women. HIV disproportionately affects women in Botswana for reasons including sex work, forced marriage, domestic violence and more. Botswana’s HIV prevention strategy includes offering protective solutions as 85% of condoms available in the country are free. However, the country’s sex education is vague and does not cater to women or young people.

Many women contract HIV at a young age because of forced youth marriage, domestic violence and more. Botswana’s sex education program holds ideas such as faithfulness and cultural traditions as the basis of its programs. Without comprehensive and adequate sex education, Botswana’s HIV rates remain high even though treatment is easily accessible.

HIV’s disproportionate effect on women in Botswana triggered the creation of a second treatment plan called Option B+. Option B+ functions similarly to the test and treat strategy, but is specific to women. Since women can pass HIV on to children, after a woman tests positive for HIV once, she receives ART for the rest of her life under Option B+, regardless of whether the HIV becomes undetectable on a test. This lowers the chance of a woman passing HIV on to a baby, which reduces HIV rates among the general population.

Looking Ahead

Botswana’s treatment plans for HIV and AIDS using ART transformed the country from struggling with an epidemic to having a strong plan for it. As of 2017, out of 380,000 people who had HIV in Botswana, 320,000 of them had access to treatment. Botswana is on its way to ending AIDS as a public health threat through its treatment plans.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS’ Treatment Initiatives for HIV/AIDS in BotswanaAccording to a UNAIDS report in 2019, 380,000 children and adults in Botswana are living with HIV/AIDS. The deadly disease has made a prominent appearance in Botswana, which is currently one of the most affected countries in the world. However, with the help of UNAIDS treatment initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana, the country has managed to establish valuable antiretroviral treatment (ART) and raise awareness for HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS: The disease and its symptoms

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a deadly virus that is spread through bodily fluids and targets human immune cells. When the virus fuses with white blood cells, it hijacks the immune system and leaves the victim highly susceptible to disease. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrom (AIDS) occurs when HIV goes without treatment and a person’s immune system is weak as a result of the virus.

Properly monitoring and managing the disease is important in slowing down the progression of the virus in its early stages. Symptoms of HIV include skin rashes, a sore throat, a fever and swollen glands. When doctors diagnose and test for HIV, they look for the appearance of HIV antibodies in the bloodstream. International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) in Botswana is a program that conducts HIV testing and posts information about the spread and transfer of the disease.

Prevalence and Primary Modes of Communication

HIV/AIDS is most commonly spread through broken wounds and contaminated bodily fluids. Participating in sexual activities without protection or HIV-prevention medicine can result in the transmission of the virus. HIV/AIDS cannot pass through saliva, sweat or urine unless they contain traces of infected blood. Using needles with HIV-contaminated blood, as well as rare cases of blood transfusions present a risk of being exposed to the virus. Less common ways of contracting HIV/AIDS include infection during birth and pregnancy from mother to child.

In Botswana, female sex workers and youth are at the biggest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. A 2012 study by the Ministry of Health found that 61.9% out of 4,000 female sex workers in Botswana have HIV. Additionally, of those surveyed, 18.6% of female sex workers did not wear condoms out of force, and 23.9% for money. Similarly, a lack of awareness and information about HIV/AIDS transmission has caused youth under the age of 15 to participate in sexual activities without protection. This has created even more HIV/AIDS cases among the youth of Botswana.

UNAIDS’s Approach to HIV/AIDS Treatment

Receiving treatment for HIV early on plays an important role in stopping the progression of the virus before it develops into AIDS. Early treatment can increase life expectancy and make living with the virus more manageable. In the United States, HIV does not often progress into AIDS. This is because frequent treatment at correct intervals can significantly slow down the rate at which the virus replicates. However, treatment is not easily accessible or cheap in many developing countries such as Botswana. This is a challenge that UNAIDS is currently helping to overcome.

In response to Botswana’s move to offer free treatment to non-citizens, UNAIDS Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson stated, “This measure will save lives and help the entire country progress toward ending the AIDS epidemic — it is another example of Botswana’s leadership and its determination to leave no one behind in the response to HIV.”

UNAIDS Treatment Initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana

UNAIDS has maintained a plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 through the implementation of ART for all Botswanians and collaborative work with the government of Botswana. As of 2017, 320,000 people of the 380,000 inhabitants of Botswana living with HIV now have access to treatment. Carlsson asserted that “the main challenge that Botswana is facing in its AIDS response is complacency. If the country can overcome this challenge, then it will show the whole world that it can be done.”

UNAIDS’s goal is to prevent the spread of the virus by educating the public and obtaining funding. Due to the combined effort of the government of Botswana and UNAIDS, Botswana was the first country in Eastern and Southern Africa to offer free HIV treatment regardless of living status or citizenship. It has also adopted a strategy that allows immediate treatment for those who test positive for the virus. This has decreased the cases of AIDS and improved the quality of life for those living with the disease. Among other exemplary HIV/AIDS programs, UNAID treatment initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana are helping save millions of lives.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in BotswanaBotswana’s 1969 Mental Disorders Act, Chapter 63:02, describes a person with mental illness as a “mentally disordered or defective person” who cannot handle their own affairs and is a danger to themselves or others due to an existing mental condition; and in the case of a child, one who cannot benefit from ordinary education. The Act does not permit the detaining in an institution of persons with mental illness except where cases fall under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

A patient’s next of kin who is an adult or any other person at least 21 years of age who has seen the patient within the last 14 days may apply for a reception order to the District Commissioner, who in turn liaises with a medical practitioner on referral and treatment protocols. If the patient does not comply, the District Commissioner is allowed to use law enforcement and can choose to carry out the processes of the reception order either privately or publicly. The District Commissioner also has the responsibility to safeguard the patient’s personal belongings and to allow a willing person to provide caregiving in the case of a Class III patient (one who does not require skilled medical care, failure to which is punishable by law).

Currently, mental health in Botswana is guided by the mental health policy drawn in 2003 that is now fully implemented and in line with human rights agreements.

Botswana’s Mental Health Services

Botswana is an upper-middle-income country with a population of 2.3 million and a physician-patient ratio of 0.5 to 1,000. As of 2014, Botswana had a total of 361 inpatient mental health professionals and a ratio of 17.7 mental health workers to 100,000 people. Nurses made up the highest proportion of these professionals at 12.17, and psychiatrists were fewest at 0.29 to a population of 100,000 with one mental hospital and five psychiatric units across different general hospitals. In 2014, there were 46 mental hospital inpatients, 6% of whom were involuntarily admitted. Of all inpatients, 93% stayed less than one year.

The University of Botswana and the U.N. partnered to promote mental health in Botswana. In a 2019 forum, the university vice-chancellor reported that the most prevalent mental and neurological disorders were schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders and depression, with the majority of patients being males. In 2010, 14,481 Batswana youth aged 15-34 had a mental disorder. The Ministry of Health and Wellness representative pointed to risks of alcohol abuse among the youth dealing with mental health challenges and the U.N. Regional Representative encouraged students to build stress resilience and coping. The university offers mental health services to students through a psychiatric nurse, who can also make advanced care referrals where necessary.

The country also has mental health promotion programs for children as well as an alcohol abuse prevention program for all age groups across the country. The Botswana Network for Mental Health, a subsidiary of the global Mental Health Network (MHN), aims to promote mental health in Botswana through advocacy and community empowerment activities. The organization further addresses the stigma associated with mental illness and helps people access mental health care.

Traditional Systems

Botswana’s constitution makes provision for the House of Chiefs, or Ntlo ya Dikgotsi, a 15-member non-partisan system, of which seven of the members are Dikgotsi (chiefs) representing the different tribes. Eight are elected by their jurisdictions, four of whom are Dikgotsana (sub-chiefs). At the grassroots is the Kgotla, which serves as a local court system and informs parliament on community affairs, a go-between on local and tribal matters including property and customary law.

This Kgotla further encourages free expression in the community by providing a platform for open dialogue for conflict resolution. The Kgotla also handles minor criminal offenses and can take disciplinary action on wayward behavior. The Kgotla thereby promotes community cohesion and psychosocial health for overall mental health in Botswana.

Reforms in Mental Health in Botswana

Despite some human rights inadequacies in the 1969 Mental Health Act, mental health in Botswana has improved over the years, becoming increasingly compliant with WHO’s directives as stipulated in the 2003 mental health policy. The traditional systems of government have also boosted social cohesion, thereby promoting mental health in Botswana.

– Beth Warūgūrū Hinga
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Botswana
To understand human trafficking in Botswana, the following rudimentary information may prove useful. Human trafficking, or modern slavery as some call it, is a worldwide problem. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. One can break this number down further into 16 million people exploited in the private sector, 15.4 million in forced marriages, 4.8 million in involuntary sex work and 4 million in state induced labor, such as forced labor during incarceration.

About the Victims of Trafficking and Violation Protection Act (TVPA)

In 2000, the U.S. government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). This law outlined the minimum requirements necessary to end human trafficking worldwide and created an office in the State Department to measure the U.S. and other countries’ progress in fulfilling this goal.

To track this progress, the State Department partners with foreign governments to collect data on the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts globally. Th State Department then uses this information to create profiles for individual nations. The State Department ranks these profiles in a four-tier system. In descending order, the tiers are Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 3. Tier 1 indicates that a country’s government meets the TVPA’s minimum requirements, while Tier 3 indicates that a country’s government has failed to meet the minimum requirements and is making little effort to do so.

The State Department publishes these rankings annually in the Trafficking in Persons Report. In each government’s profile, the State Department provides recommendations to help a government improve its ranking and eliminate trafficking. As such, the TIP Report is an important informational tool for U.S. State officials, NGOs and advocates when creating action plans to combat trafficking.

The Situation in Botswana

Botswana, a country north of South Africa and east of Namibia, meets the criteria for being a Tier 2 country. This means that, while the country does not meet all of the TVPA’s standards, it is making progress in eliminating trafficking.

There are two main types of human trafficking in Botswana. The first is the international variety. On this level, Botswana is a starting, middle or endpoint in human trafficking. Traffickers take Batswana (Botswana natives) to neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, while they take others, such as Ethiopians and Tanzanians, through or to Botswana.

One of the most common types of human trafficking to occur involves the sexual exploitation of women. In Botswana, the female unemployment rate was at 21.76% in 2020 (over twice the unemployment rate during the Great Recession in the U.S.). Traffickers exploit this weakness through fake job offers and advertisements on social media.

The second type of human trafficking in Botswana is more culturally ingrained. It is not uncommon for the rural poor to send their children to stay at an affluent relative’s place, under the assumption that the relative will provide the child with care and education. In reality, the relative usually exploits the child for free labor while denying the child an education. According to Madoda Nasha, deputy manager of Botswana’s Department of Trafficking in Persons, Batswana view this type of behavior as natural and, as such, hardly ever report it.

A New Beginning

A cornerstone to the government’s ability to combat human trafficking in Botswana is the Anti Human Trafficking Act, which criminalized sex and labor trafficking, as well as child labor. This law established protective services, such as care centers and a victim fund. Finally, it set up the Human Trafficking Prohibition Committee, which oversees the implementation of these services.

Although the Anti Human Trafficking Act shows great progress, it is not without its faults. This act can sentence a trafficker to up to 25 years in prison, a fine or both. Since a trafficker can get away with only a fine, it is far more lenient than punishments for other violent crimes, such as rape. Furthermore, judges and prosecutors often lack knowledge of this law, which impedes efforts to convict traffickers to its fullest extent.

Recent Advancements

To address some of the failings of the Anti Human Trafficking Act, the government amended the law in 2018 to include higher fines and for prison terms to include life sentences. The same year, the government amended its penal code. The Penal Code Amendment of 2018 raised the age of consent to 18 and introduced harsher sentences for violent crimes. Lastly, victim protection services have seen an increase in government funding in recent years, rising from $41,930 in 2017 to $346,100 in 2019.

Furthermore, Botswana actively participates in fighting human trafficking at the international level. For example, between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, Botswana identified 31 foreign trafficking victims in its country and worked with countries as close as Zimbabwe and as far as Nigeria. Additionally, since Botswana is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), it also participates in the organization’s data collection and sharing efforts, as well as public outreach and awareness efforts.

Lastly, the Mandela Washington Fellows (MWF), the flagship program of the United States’ Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), have implemented projects to fight human trafficking in Botswana. It has launched a website aimed at aiding civil society organizations and NGOs by providing them with international standard operating procedures for dealing with human trafficking victims. This allows for these groups to fast track response and victim care. Additionally, MWF is a prominent force in raising awareness through community projects, social media and its work with the government of Botswana.

Despite all these advancements, there is still room for improvement, as outlined by the TVPA’s standards. However, if the last six years are any indicator of what is to come, Botswana could have a safe, slavery-free future.

– Riley Behlke
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Botswana
Botswana, considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries, has seen a recent victory in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Here is some information about women’s rights in Botswana.

A Recent Victory

In September 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi amended the 2015 Land Policy to give married women in Botswana the right to own land. Previously, married women were only eligible to own land if their husbands did not. The policy excluded not only married women but widows and single mothers as well, which left millions of women affected.

Tshegofatso Mokibelo, a 38-year-old widowed financial analyst, received a denial when she applied for a residential plot of land, as her late husband had owned a plot previously and his family had since claimed it. “Women also have the right to own land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This recent amendment gives both men and women equal rights to own land.

More Good News

“Botswana will be a society where all men and women have equal opportunity to actively participate in the economic, social, cultural, and political development of their country.”

Botswana’s Vision 2036, one of its various initiatives towards improving the republic, promises progress for women’s rights. Since the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the country has made several commitments to gender equality and women’s rights in Botswana. These commitments include its ratification of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme and the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015.

The progression toward women’s rights in Botswana has led to notable successes in education. Botswana has almost equal enrollment rates for girls and boys at every level in school. In fact, a Gender Parity Index report in 2012 favored girls at both the secondary school and tertiary education levels. More recently, UNICEF reported the GPI for primary education in 2014 as favoring girls, indicating improvement. However, according to the Sustainable Development Report, challenges remain in this area.

Other positive strides include equality within the labor force, reported as achieved in the Sustainable Development Report and having one of the lowest adolescent birth rates in Africa at 50 per 1,000 population, ages 15-19.

Gender Equality

According to the Sustainable Development Report, significant challenges remain in the effort to achieve the gender equality goal. Seats that women held in parliament, for example, are reported as stagnating with “major challenges remaining.” According to statistics from the World Bank, the proportion of seats that women held in parliament has decreased from 17% in 2000 to 9.5% in 2018.

The dual legal system in Botswana, a consequence of colonization, also creates complications in achieving gender equality. Customary laws that currently exist in Botswana discriminate against women. However, Botswana’s government has engaged itself in talks with traditional leaders since 2012 on how to bring women’s rights into customary law. This has resulted in several community groups establishing Gender Committees to open discourse around gender inequality.

Gender-based Violence

One of the greatest remaining challenges, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, is gender-based violence. In July 2020, the current Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi, revealed an unprecedented increase in reports of gender-based violence since the April 2020 lockdown.

According to The United Nations Population Fund, over 67% of women in Botswana have experienced abuse. In order to combat this, the UNFPA is working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and several organizations to provide gender-based violence prevention and access to services for those at risk.

One of the NGOs working to eradicate gender-based violence in Botswana is the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre. It offers prevention programs such as community outreach and education, as well as several services that gender-based violence personally affects. Kgomotso Kelaotswe, Counselor Supervisor for the NGO reported that during the lockdown period, 155 clients sought shelter at the organization, 67 clients received hotline counseling services and a further 50 obtained assistance through the short line message service.

Botswana continues to face challenges in the fight for women’s rights. However, the government’s commitment to tackling these challenges remains promising.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Equal Land Ownership
On September 17, 2020, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced that wives will now be able to own land independently from their husbands. This is an amendment to the 2015 Land Policy that prevented women from owning land independently if their husband was already a landowner or even co-owning land equally along with their husbands. Botswana, a landlocked country located in Africa, had also prevented widowed women from inheriting their deceased husband’s property. Because people considered women to be their husband’s property, the deceased husband’s inheritance would then pass down to a male relative, leaving the widow without any land to live or work on. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives can regain independence inside of marriage. Married women are able to choose their own plot of land, which includes both state-owned and tribal land.

Measures Toward Equal Land Ownership

Unmarried women could purchase land after the 2015 Land Policy passed, but married women and widows had always experienced exclusion from this right. Additionally, husbands had the power to sell a property without consulting their wives, preventing them from having access to land used to work. Because Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives are now equal to their husbands.

As an extra measure, President Masisi encouraged non-governmental organizations to teach women about their rights. Women will also have access to legal support to assist them in securing their success as landowners. This additional project will ensure the enforcement of the amendment so that as many women as possible can benefit from it.

This amendment is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as widows previously could not inherit their husband’s land. Widows face the threat of becoming social outcasts and typically have no choice but to marry male relatives to grant security. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, widows are able to support themselves and remain independent.

Women in Agriculture in Botswana

Land ownership is especially important for women in order to make a living from farming. About 80% of Botswana’s population are farmers, the majority being single women who can own land. Married women now will have an equal opportunity to work and contribute to their family income. Less than one month after President Masisi’s announcement, 53% of the 620,660 people on a waitlist to purchase property were women according to Botswana’s land audits reports. Globally, only 15% of female farmers own land, despite women making up the majority of farmworkers. Because an agricultural-based country like Botswana gives women equal land ownership, it is certain to have an impact on inspiring global farmers.

When announcing the new amendment, President Masisi said “The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed.”

Botswana certainly has a long way to go with securing women’s rights, but protecting widows and granting wives equality to their husbands is a huge step in the right direction. Botswana’s recognition of married women’s rights to own land promises further advancements in women’s rights.

– Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in BotswanaLocated in Southern Africa, Botswana is categorized as a middle-income country, making it one of the most economically stable countries on the continent. Botswana models an egalitarian philosophy with judicial respect toward human rights following its Constitution adopted in 1966. Equal and affordable housing has been a pillar of the country’s rhetoric. However, in recent years, with growing population density and uncertain job prospects, cost-effective housing is no longer guaranteed. Here’s what you need to know about homelessness in Botswana.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Botswana

  1. In Botswana, land is divided by locally elected officials who serve on land boards. Members of the board allocate pieces of land to citizens free of charge. As 79% of the country consists of viable land for agriculture and recreational use, selling property personally is illegal.
  2. Nearly one-third of Botswana’s population lives in peri-urban areas outside of the capital. In recent years, the country’s extraordinary population growth has led to a large population of squatters outside of Gaborone, the nation’s capital and largest city. Since the 1990s, the number of people living within Gaborone and its periphery has increased by 90%. The reason for this large and sudden migration is a shrinking interest in agriculture. People move closer to the city in search of work. But the cities are not equipped for such a high concentration of people, and the government is slow-moving in processing land requests. As such, citizens have to to fend for themselves. Because of this land scarcity, landowners are dividing their property and charging rent.
  3. The government objects to this unofficial market for a few reasons. The first is that people see land as being sacred. For the government, citizens do not own land but instead enjoy it as a customary right. The second reason is that goods and services such as electricity, water and sewage are harder to distribute if the land is cluttered with unregistered housing. In some cases, when squatters settle in unused agricultural land, the government believes that the land is wasted. A piece of agricultural land populated with 5,000 squatters could have held 20,000 to 25,000 households if divided correctly.
  4. The government received backlash in 2001 when more than 2,000 squatters’ homes were demolished. Citizens firstly disagreed with the government’s choice to not address the faults of the land allocations that had forced people to live in unregistered housing. They also expressed their distaste for the apathetic manner in which the homes were destroyed. Since then, some communication has occurred between Botswana citizens and the government regarding the tradition of sacred land and the opportunities present in an open market.
  5. Due to the lack of available land and the consequences of living on unregistered property, some citizens’ living conditions are less than sufficient. Many areas are overcrowded. In addition, citizens often face a lack of water, sanitation and electricity. As a result, their settlements come to be marked as slums. The most recent data on the population density in Botswana slums was taken in 2001. It reported that 61% of citizens lived in slums, which means that Botswana has a high prevalence of slums. Generally, the prevalence of slums is higher in countries that rely on government land distribution like Botswana.
  6. Administrative land allocation can be slow and unorganized, but it can also be discriminatory. In Botswana, citizens who earn less than $630 a year are denied housing. This is due to their presumed inability to pay their housing fees. As a result, this contributes to the issue of homelessness in Botswana. Furthermore, citizens who make less than $3,439 do not qualify for building loans, which prevents them from constructing a home.

Moving Toward Change

In 2016, Botswana’s Ministry of Lands and Housing held a national workshop to discuss the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program. The Participatory Slum Upgrading Program is a plan that incorporates Sustainable Development Goals to assess and address the needs of slum dwellers. Additionally, the ministry announced its $150,000 budget for the improvement of living conditions. This plan primarily focuses on areas of basic services such as access to clean water, adequate space, sanitation and electricity. Along with the Homeless and Poor People’s Federation of Botswana, the ministry plans to legalize an open housing market and privatized land allocation.

Another organization rising to meet the challenge of housing is the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which focuses on child welfare and builds halfway homes. These homes serve as an in-between living space for homeless children who have been abandoned by family members or left as orphans. They stay in halfway homes, which also accommodate adults and caregivers, before they are given proper placement. Each home features a lounge, kitchen, rest area, bathroom, office and storage space. In addition, the BDF helps build homes, collect trash and establish community gardens.

Things have changed since Botswana’s land and agricultural rights policy. Citizens and larger organizations are working to balance the government’s emphasis on law in order and the benefits of an open market. The return to affordable housing could be the tipping point citizens are looking for to change the current state of economic inequality and eliminate homelessness in Botswana.

Alexa Tironi

Photo: Flickr