Upcoming politicians have their say
2021 marks a year where most political parties are headed for their elective congresses. With less and less female representation in parliament, Voice Woman spoke to four emerging female politicians to get their views on what could be holding women back in politics.
Q: What inspired you to join politics?
Bokamoso Modibedi, 33, BDP National Youth Executive Committee:
To influence policy reforms especially on education, youth empowerment, and women empowerment.
Bonnie Tlhagwane, 30, BCP Youth League Secretary-General
Largely because of Dumelang Saleshando. I have been following him from a young age and some issues he raised hit close to home.
The way he ironed out the issues made you feel that if he was leading this country we would definitely make it!
So when I got to UB I joined UBCD-BCP, which is under the Botswana Congress Party.
Kesegofetse Magapa, 33, BPF Youth League
I have actually always been a leader, even throughout my formal school. Politics was only inevitable!
Ndinaye Tabengwa, 22, UDC Moono wa baithuti, UB
Growing up in a family with a humble background, I wanted to be part of those who implement policies to deal with the gap between the poor and the rich.
There is a lot of injustice in this country and corruption is also a burning issue.
Q: What are some of the challenges that come with being female in today’s politics?
Modibedi: Constantly being overlooked or undermined simply because I am a woman!
Tlhagwane: It is not easy. For one, people don’t expect a woman to be running for parliamentary or council office.
She has to be home nurturing the kids. The society also looks at us like there’s something lacking with us.
We are not supposed to be vocal or assertive nor even have a say in politics.
Magapa: Our voices as women in most cases go unheard and our contributions are too often sidelined.
The politics of nowadays is very expensive therefore women need political funding.
Tabengwa: Entrenched socio-cultural values and customs have always had an impact on how females become part of decision making.
Even today we see it in politics – women are not given many audiences when they try to raise a point.
Q: What is your view about the women parliamentarians we have today?
Modibedi: I think they have represented us well.
I’m particularly impressed by honorable Dow and her stand against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Tlhagwane: Honestly today’s parliament female representation is below average.
One would assume because they understand the challenges we face as women they would speak on our behalf but it’s a different, sad story.
Magapa: I am a bit disappointed that they do not seem to have the women’s agenda at the forefront.
I had expected they would champion women’s issues more.
Since honorable Tshireletso left parliament there is no female champion of our issues.
Tabengwa: Looking at today’s parliament we have seven females in parliament but we still don’t hear their voices.
They don’t stand for us as women to help address issues that affect women.
Q: What do you think needs to be improved in order to increase women’s representation and interest in politics?
Modibedi: For us to increase women’s representation there has to be a cultural change.
We must empower women to believe that their skills are not only limited to household chores but they have the skills and potential to lead.
There is no reason why a woman cannot ascend to the highest office in the land.
Tlhagwane: There should be special dispensation for women who show interest in running for office even from the stage of the primary election.
If need be there should be wards reserved for women.
Women also need to be capacitated so that we do not only have them fill up positions of power but have them fill them up with the knowledge of what is expected of them as leaders.
Magapa: We need to remove the barriers that exist.
Women are not as well resourced as men for example.
Even where women have access to family resources you still find that they need permission from men to spend.
This makes it difficult as we know politics has lots of expenses that are not easy to account for.
Also, women play multiple roles in the family and within society.
When you go campaign you still have to make sure your husband and the kids are fed and clothed.
The men generally do not have these roles back home.
Tabengwa: I feel like most females feel discouraged or they are not yet brave enough to get into the political realm.
We should empower females and give them a chance to contest for high positions instead of always giving them small positions in politics.
Q: Why is it important to have female voices in parliament?
Modibedi: To help transform working conditions that will see women being paid the same as males with the same qualifications.
Speak out against GBV and advocate for women’s empowerment.
Tlhagwane: We need women to be included in the decision making because men do not understand the issues that affect women.
We cannot expect a man to fully comprehend what we go through, they can only sympathise.
Magapa: But progressive female voices.
It should not be just female voices.
It should be female voices concerned about justice and equality.
There is no point if the women then stay quiet or become even more toxic than the men.
Tabengwa: Having a female voice is very important because challenges faced by women and children can be addressed better.
Q: Do you think Botswana will have a female President in the next 20 years?
Modibedi: Yes I think we will have a female President in less than 20 years.
I believe we have a pool of capable women now to lead into the future.
Tlhagwane: I don’t see us having a female President in the next 20 years.
For starters, politically women do not support each other.
For example, a lot happened when Mma Moitoi tried to take on the President.
So a female President, for now, is just a myth.
Magapa: It’s possible and it must happen.
The more we have women in positions of political leadership the more we are likely to have a female President sooner.
Tabengwa: As long as in 20 years we still have executive positions being given to male figures, I don’t see us having a female President.