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Beating the gender drum

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SHE DREAMS OF A JUST SOCIETY: Dr Mekgwe

As a post-doctoral fellow at the Wits Institute for Economic and Social Research (WISER) in South Africa, Dr. Mekgwe contributed to the Sexuality and Masculinity discourse within WISER with several articles and numerous presentations leading to the preparation of a book manuscript on Sexuality and the Concept of the Nation.
Her passion for humanity and equality for all despite gender has also not earned her a name but has taken her places around the globe.
She returned to the country late last year after living in Dakar, Senegal for more than three years where she was working in the Research Department of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa directing research on gender and the humanities.
Dr Mekgwe who is also on the board of Gender Links, non-governmental organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa that deals with gender issues talks to Sinqobile Ndlovu–Tessa about her fight for a just society and the equality of the human race.Dreaming of a just and equitable world

Q. To begin with, what is your definition of gender?
Gender is about male and female equality, it means men and women complimenting each other in all that they do.

Q. When one talks about gender issues people tend to think it’s only for women or that it all has to do with women, where do you think this perception comes from?
Women have been marginalized for a long time and because most gender groups are pushing the women’s agenda so that they can be at par with their male counterparts people then tend to think that gender issues only concern women.

Q. Women who are vocal about genders issue and advancing women’s rights are usually seen as failures in marriages and relationships, what’s your take on this?
That is not true because I for one am a firm believer of marriage and family. But I think this comes from the fact that single women tend to be vocal about equalities because they have no fear of what their family and the husband’s family might think about them. Some married women on the other hand might have that fear of what the husband and or their family might say about views on equality. But again it all depends on individuals because we have married women who talk openly about gender inequalities.

Q. Where did your passion for gender issues come from?
It has nothing to do with my upbringing but I can say it has to do with some of my experiences.
I was brought up in a family where we were all treated equally and given same chores regardless of sex. But after finishing my first degree when I wanted to do things like starting a business my father’s consent was suddenly needed. That’s when the issue of gender inequality hit me because I realized that my father’s consent was needed simply because I was a woman. I was also encouraged to work on gender issues and with Gender Links by the Attorney General, Attaliah Molokomme who also used to work with them before her appointment as the AG.

Q. Botswana still has not signed the SADC gender protocol? What are your thoughts on the matter?
It is quite sad especially looking at some of the strides and achievements that the country has made in empowering Batswana. Signing of the protocol would have made a huge impact on upping the status of Botswana even further because it would have meant implementing what is contained in the protocol for the good of the Batswana women.

Q. But why do you think the powers that be are dragging their feet on the issue?
I am not sure why but I think it’s because as Sheila Tlou (former Minister of Health) once remarked that a protocol is a ‘have to do and not nice to do thing’. Again I think it’s the language of ‘must do’ that is the problem because it is binding and targets have to be met.  It is for this reason that I think may have resulted in Botswana not signing the protocol. I also suspect it’s because the government thinks it has and is doing enough to empower women hence no need to be part of the protocol.

Q. You and a group of young people currently have a programme on DUMA FM dealing with issues contained in the protocol.
The idea behind the programme is to make people aware of what is contained in the protocol. Botswana has not signed it yet but people still have to know what is contained in it and share their views on it with the rest of the people since it is a phone-in-programme. Botswana has a lot of gender related issues to deal with such as passion killings and so people need to know about the protocol and how it seeks to address some of the issues that people are faced with in their daily lives.

Q. Coming to politics, Botswana is still lacking in far as women in politics are concerned. Why so?
This is one the sad things about our country especially looking that the number of educated and able women who have the capabilities to venture and succeed in politics. I however think it has to do with socializing because we grow up believing that politics is a men’s only game. Women also do not seem to have confidence and don’t support each other despite our large numbers. If a woman contests against a man for a political position, women in their large numbers will obviously vote for a man because of the belief that women don’t have the stamina to withstand the heat that comes with being a politician. Again it has to do with the huge number of roles that women have in their lives; they are wives and mothers, all these roles need time. 

Q. Would you truly say Batswana women are empowered?
They are in other areas but a lot still needs to be done because empowerment includes a lot of things. We still need to inculcate confidence in women so that they can be able to stand on their own without having to depend on men. All opportunities need to be availed to women as well so that they can also be fully rounded citizens.

Q. Are you also of the belief that women should be given preferential treatment when it comes to decision-making positions?
I believe people should be treated as individuals looking at their personal capabilities not because of their sex. However when the need arises for a woman to fill a certain position then let it be so.

Q. Lastly what is your dream society in as far as gender issues are concerned?
I wish we could create a just society, a society that does not discriminate people but gives all equal opportunities. I dream of a society which is just in terms of human rights, a society which does not have underdogs.

FACT FILE
Full names: Pinkie Tlotlego Mekgwe
Place of birth: Mochudi
Marital status: Married
Children: Two, a boy and a girl
Academic qualifications: MA-critical theory, D. Phil-Gender and Literary Studies
Current employer: University of Botswana
Holiday destination: Okavango Delta
Favourite drink: Kir Royal
Pastime: Playing with her kids

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