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Women in politics: Botswana ranked amongst worst

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


Botswana, which is Africa’s longest standing democracy, has been mentioned among the worst countries in the world inclusion of women in political decision making bodies such as parliament.

The latest, The Global Gender Gap Index 2017 released at the beginning of this month rank Botswana 122nd out of 144 countries, owing to its overly male dominated parliament. Botswana currently has only five female MPs in a 63 seat parliament. The continued poor ranking in this category has been exacerbated by the death of Tlokweng Member of Parliament (MP) Same Bathobakae last year.

Bathobakae became the first female to win in general elections under the ticket of opposition party. Bathobake has since been replaced by a male, Masego Segokgo in a resultant bye-election earlier this year. The imminent departure of two female MPs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Botlogile Tshireletso is likely to see Botswana regressing further in the ranking, with the duo having announced once more in their responses to State of Nation Address (SONA) that they would not be seeking re-election in 2019.

The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups.

The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps

The political empowerment subindex measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. The ranking also include the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In Africa, Rwanda remains among the best in political empowerment sub index as the country with one of the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, with 61 percent of representatives in its legislature being female. Neighbouring South Africa which is ranked 19th overall is ranked ahead of Botswana in the category of political participation, with a ranking of 18th position. Other African countries which were ranked ahead of Botswana overall include Namibia, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Burundi.

In the past there were efforts to increase representation of women in parliament through the special election nomination dispensation. In the 9th parliament Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats will be reserved for women.

The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Botsalo Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament. Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters are not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.

Since 1965, there have been 46 Specially Elected MPs appointments, of these appointments only 14 were females while 32 were male. Change of electoral system has been a subject of debate in Botswana’s political area, with Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) having instigated the debate.

The federation, which is the biggest and the most influential labour movement in Botswana this week held a forum where various organs of civic society deliberated on the matter of constitutional reforms. BOFEPUSU comprises of four public sector unions; Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and other auxiliary trade unions outside the public sector scope.

Even though Botswana fared badly in the category of women political empowerment, it pulled impressive results in the category of educational attainment with 1st position ranking. In this category the report captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education.

The report further looks at a longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers captured through the ratio of the female literacy rate to the male literacy rate. The report indicates that the number of female children visa-vis male children in Botswana at primary and secondary level is almost equal, while at tertiary level more female students are enrolled as compared to their male counter parts. Botswana is ranked 46th overall and has scored better in the category of economic participation and opportunity but fared badly in the heath and survival category due to its lower life expectancy.



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