5.Women and political representation in Botswana: 55 years after independence and beyond
Tshephang Dipogiso (Thuto Khumo Foundation, Botswana)
Women all over the world face significant social, cultural, political, and economic barriers that prevent them from obtaining leadership positions. Botswana is no exception. But one of the most fascinating developments in African politics has been the increase in women’s participation since the mid 1990’s. Women are becoming more engaged in leadership positions of institutions from local government to legislatures and even the executive. Today, Africa is a leader in women parliamentary representation globally with a Global Average of 22.5 percent. For instance, Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliament in the world with 63.8% of women in lower house (UN, 2016). Despite this remarkable increase of women representation in parliament, Botswana remains behind in the number of women in parliament. The country is yet to sign SADC Gender Protocol that requires 30% quota of positions reserved for women in leadership. Botswana has been recording low participation of women in both elective and appointive political positions in particular parliament. For instance, out of the 18 recently confirmed ministerial appointments made by President Khama’s administration, only three (3) are women, translating to 16.7%. In the National Assembly there are only five women out of 57 constituencies which constitute a paltry 8.8%. This has been a growing concern because for democratic governments to deliver to their constituents, they must be truly representative hence women must be equal partners in the process of democratic development. However, one divergent fact is that the performance and determination of women in leadership roles in parastatals and private sector supersede that of their male counterparts. The question therefore remains why women participation in politics is low. The literature on this subject is fairly emerging but commonly points to cultural stereotypes especially the patriarchal nature of Botswana’s society (Maundeni, 2002; Ntseane 2005; Ntseane & Sentsho, 2005, Geisler, 2004). Using the Afro barometer perception survey data, this paper presents descriptive statistics and regression analysis of selected variables that explain low participation of women. In the data, the dependent variable is measured by a question: Men make better political leaders than women and should be elected rather than women. The paper analyses responses of those who agree with the statement using location, age, sex, interest in public affairs, and education. The research provides a baseline for the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Agenda 2063: a pledge for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development and Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The significance of this study’s conclusions and recommendations is to further stimulate women of Botswana to stand up and challenge their male counterparts in contesting for, party positions, parliamentary seats during general elections and present themselves for executive appointments. Also, the study has policy implications in the sense that it will improve evidence-based planning and programming involving women in decision making.