girls’ education in Botswana
Botswana, a country in southern Africa, has reached a stable, democratic government with strength in its economic policies and education system. Primary net enrollment rate is about 85 percent with participation between girls and boys averaging an almost equal number. 

However, there are still many barriers to girls education such as sexual violence, orphan and child-headed household, social-cultural issues and early pregnancies. Many initiatives and programs, such as those shown below, are motivated to improve learning outcomes and provide a gender-sensitive environment that will encourage girls to stay in school. 

Free Sanitary Pads as School Supplies

One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses schools during their period. Others lose 20 percent of their education which makes them more likely to drop out of school. oftentimes, poor academic performance can be attributed to girls missing school when on their monthly menstrual period. 

Botswana’s parliament is improving girls’ education in Botswana through a motion on August 2017 that offers girls in both private and public schools sanitary pads. This will allow the girls who cannot afford their own sanitary pads to continue their education during menstrual periods. It is the first country in Africa and the second country in the world to offer free sanitary products to young women.

Women in STEM 

Up to 40 percent of all orphans in Botswana are 12-17 years old. Many children become caregivers, especially girls, and are forced to have adult responsibilities. As a result, inadequate health care, lack of protection from sexual assault and decreased education all increase.

Stepping Stones International (SSI) is an after-school and community outreach program that serves orphaned and vulnerable adolescents and their caregivers.

SSI is improving girls’ education in Botswana through the implementation of a year-long, day after-school program that includes STEM activities that empower girls to obtain critical thinking skills. The program also hopes to each girls to understand the impact of engineering in a global context. Through aiding youth in developing design process skills and using them in various engineering challenges, the organization helps address the gap in girls’ education and teaches youth how to apply STEM tools to real-life situations. 

Educating Girls on HIV Risks

At 24 percent, Botswana has the third-highest HIV prevalence worldwide among adults. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of those with HIV are from older males that offer girls gifts and money in exchange for sexual relationships. For each year older a male partner is than the female, the risk of unprotected sex increases by 28 percent.

Young 1ove is a non-governmental organization based in Botswana that scales evidence-based programs in health and education. The group is improving girls’ education in Botswana through its program, “No Sugar,” which teaches girls about the likelihood of attracting HIV from older men.

The course has reaches more that 350,000 students in 350 schools across the country. A study conducted by the organization on pregnancy rates — another risk of unprotected sex — revealed that in schools that taught the course, pregnancy dropped 30 to 40 percent. 

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Botswana

An educated girl is healthier, married later, has healthier children and reinvests in her family and community. Botswana is committed to overcoming the barriers that hinder girls access to education.

The long-term goal of aiding organizations and initiatives is to see an increase in the number of girls who complete secondary school and go on to attend college or begin a career. 

– Anne-Marie Maher
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in BotswanaSeveral legislative initiatives are building rungs in the socioeconomic ladder to improve women’s empowerment in Botswana. The nation currently ranks 95th out of 188 countries in the United Nations Development Programme Gender Inequality Index report. Ranking in the 21st percentile is not ideal, but conditions are ostensibly better; in 2015, Botswana ranked 108th.

The Gender Affairs Department has sanctioned programs dedicated to the coordination and development of gender equality throughout the republic. The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme and the Women’s Grant are two such examples. These agendas provide seed money for women’s groups to help jumpstart women-led small business projects.

The presence of women in the business sector and in leadership positions is important, especially when it comes to women’s empowerment in Botswana. “When women are empowered and can earn an income, they invest back into their families and communities [statistically more than men]. This drives hunger, poverty and malnutrition down and improves standards of health, education and well-being, which is good for all of us,” says Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Women executive director. Women in businesses and leadership positions have profound social and global implications.

The National Policy on Gender and Development was approved by the Botswanan government in March 2015. This policy is designed to address the social inequities that still survive economically and socially. Priority areas include poverty prevention and economic development, social protection, the promotion of democracy, freedom from violence and the protection of vulnerable groups. The recognition of gender equality and legal involvement is important because it lends credence to the cause and serves to empower women in Botswana.

Botswana’s Vision 2036, underscored by their slogan “prosperity for all”, is a legislative movement aimed at developing the republic economically, socially and administratively. The vision is designed to complement Africa’s Agenda 2063, a socioeconomic-focused initiative. “Botswana will be a society where all men and women have equal opportunity to actively participate in the economic, social, cultural and political development,” the Vision 2036 declaration explains. Gender equality is central to the success of its overall goal of putting Botswana on the economic map.

Women’s empowerment in Botswana is improving. Since 1990, the average expected years of schooling for girls has gone from 10.3 years in 1990 to 12.8 years in 2015. The percentage of women with at least some secondary education went from 41 percent (1990) to 85.1 percent (2015). The average gross national income for females has gone up from $7,988 (1991) to $13,281 (2015).

Remarking on the UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and the National Gender-Based Violence Strategy 2015-2020, Vice President Mokgweettsi E. Masisi highlights Botswana’s commitment to “achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, and all other goals that intend to improve the dignity and the status of women,” at the 2015 Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Botswana.

African feminism and empowerment is a striking movement gaining traction and saturating Botswana.  “Feminism in the African continent has existed for generations,” says Botswanan columnist Taffiny Kablay. Kablay mentioned the names of aerospace engineer Bonolo Mpabanga, writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa, “Mma Mosadi Movement” co-founder Marea Otlaadisa and stroke awareness campaign creator Bakhwi Kragh to illustrate that there are several pioneers of women’s empowerment in Botswana. The necessary cornerstones are all in place for the progression of Botswana with African feminist rhetoric buttressing legislation, thereby collaborating social and administrative efforts.

– Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr