The true pioneer in the fight for gender equality
When growing up Joyce Gainewe Anderson was socialized and taught that girls and boys are at par with each and other and deserve equal opportunities.
It is this principle and belief that later made her fight for the rights of women and the girl child and to make sure that they are given a fair share of available opportunities and stand out to be counted as valuable contributors in society.
Because of the work that she did and continues to do in as far as women empowerment is concerned, Anderson is today a celebrated pioneer in the fight for gender equalities in the country.
The Voice had a one-on-one with the gender activist who was in also in the forefront of the formation of the country’s renowned women’s organization, Emang Basadi an organization that she continues to serve despite her retirement.
“How can I retire from something that is in me? Fighting for gender equality is flowing in my veins and thus I cannot retire from it,’’ said Anderson when asked about her continued involvement with the organization.
“I may no longer be the President of Emang Basadi or an active member but they do consult me on certain issues and I am always willing to assist,’’ she said adding that its something that she will do as long as she can.
The struggle of equality
On how her quest to fight for the empowerment of women began, Anderson revealed that it all had to do with her socialization though back then in the 1940s and 50s it was not something that she thought would later have a bearing on her attitude towards society.
“When I was growing up my mother taught me to be a responsible individual and to look at myself as an equal to boys. I then grew up doing what my brother or any boys did despite my disability. However it never occurred to me that this would later influence my path in life,’’ she said.
It was later in her life when she was working as a Community Development Officer and dealing with women and developmental issues that Anderson’s eyes were opened to the real issues that were affecting women in their day-to-day lives.
She got even more exposed when she went to work for the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland teaching Adult Education.
This academic career path and further studies in Adult education saw her becoming the first Motswana to become an Executive Member of African Adult Education Association based in Kenya and the first woman to also become an Executive Member of the African Literacy Society.
These developments instilled in her a stronger urge to champion the cause of women’s rights and issues.
“Having worked in Tanzania and for the local Council of Refugees I was then head-hunted to join the division of Women’s Affairs. During my stint there, we pushed for the policy on women. In this policy we wanted women’s issues to be integrated into the mainstream issues of governance. We wanted women to be part of the decision makers and though we have not achieved the ultimate goal, I must say Botswana has made positive strides in this regard,’’ she said.
While at Women’s Affairs, Anderson became actively involved in debates to do with the Citizenship Act and the Polygamy Act, which somehow gave men a go ahead to marry more than one wife.
“We strongly opposed this as women and our meetings to discuss these issues eventually led to the birth of Emang Basadi. Since I was still working for Women’s Affairs people thought I was defying the government but for me it was just a case of standing up for what I believed in,’’ she said.
Though the organization was formed in 1982, it was formally registered in 1986 with Anderson becoming its president in 1998 until 2004.
Fought and won against the Citizenship Act (commonly known as the Unity Dow case), which did not grant the children of Batswana women and foreign men Botswana citizenship.
Lobbied for women to become Dikgosi (Chiefs) if they have a right to be.
Campaigned and lobbied for the inclusion of women in the Botswana Defence Forces as army officers. Lobbied for refugee children to be granted travelling document so they could travel outside the country.