A common cause


North West women unite in desire to make a difference at the polls

The lack of female representation in local politics, both at parliamentary and council level, has been described as a glaring abnormality by one of the country’s top politicians, Dumelang Saleshando.

Speaking at an ongoing training for woman politicians in Maun on Monday, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader expressed concern that despite this status quo, the country seemingly lacks the political will to change things.

“The problem is in our electoral system. We use ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP), but if you look at the performance history of countries that use this system, you’ll realise they have low female representatives in their Parliaments. Even the country that we copied our constitution from, United Kingdom, this system does not work for them; they have 34 percent female representatives in the House of Commons,” noted Saleshando, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Maun West.

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Conducted by the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Gender Links, the week-long training was held at Adansonia Hotel and was open to women in politics from North West, Okavango and Chobe districts. Members of all five of Botswana’s leading political parties took part in the event.

With the general elections on the horizon, expected to take place in October next year, Gender Links saw fit to organise the initiative on the backdrop of poor female performances at the polls in past elections.

It is hoped the training will empower and prepare the ladies for the political battle that lies ahead.

Currently female representatives in Botswana Parliament stands at a depressing 11 percent, while at local government the figure rises ever so slightly to 18 percent.

A common cause
A UNITED FRONT: Members of all five parties took part in the training

“This is very worrisome. We need to discuss this elephant in the room,” stressed Saleshando, when officially opening the training.

The BCP President remains adamant this low female representation has nothing to do with Botswana’s young democracy but rather its constitution that allows for FPTP electoral system.

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He feels Proportional Representation (PR), similar to the system used in South Africa, where parties, groups and independent candidates are elected to Parliament in proportion to the number of votes they receive, would suit the country better and give women an equal chance at leadership as men.

Another matter Saleshando suggested needs to be addressed urgently is political party funding, which would enable women to battle in a fair political field with men without financial constraints.

He further conceded that even at political party level, there are fewer females in leadership positions and called on women to build confidence and take up these positions.

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