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A journey of hope



A journey of hope

42-year-old Onica Lekuntwane was recently appointed the coordinator of Journey of Hope Botswana.

Their message is simple: Touch. Look and Check (TLC) (Tshwara. Leba. Tlhatlhoba).

As Botswana joins the world in commemorating Breast Cancer awareness month this October, for Journey of Hope Botswana it coincides with the launch of a National Awareness Campaign titled ‘Go moDiatlengTsaGago’.

The initiative is about de-stigmatising breast cancer and taking one’s health into their own hands, literally.

The campaign features a number of breast cancer fighters and survivors, who agreed to be photographed topless and share their inspiring stories.

These ladies range in age from the early 30s to the 70s – key target populations who are increasingly being affected by breast cancer.

The Voice reporter SHARON MATHALA sat down with Lekuntwane for a brief tete-a-tete ahead of next week’s campaign launch set for October 10.

For those who have never come across Journey of Hope, please tell us a little bit about the organisation.

Journey of Hope Botswana is a non-profit organisation that focuses on breast cancer awareness.

It was started in 2009 by Bev Denbury, Rita Keevil and Marilyn Garcin in response to their realisation that many women were unaware of the signs of breast cancer and that there was a lot of value in being able to detect the signs early to avoid unnecessary deaths.

What inspired you to join such a cause?

Like many others, l used to have a very big fear of the word ‘Cancer’.

I realised that this fear was due to my own ignorance about it.

When I got the chance to meet some of ‘the Pink Ladies’ – we dress in pink and ride pink scooters – I got the chance to ask all the burning questions l used to have.

I realised that it was my chance to join them as a volunteer and help to share this new knowledge.

I am a strong believer in using my skills to make a difference in society.

With my Visual Communication and Adult Education background, I am grateful to have this opportunity to make a difference.

Interesting. So, what exactly is your role with the organisation?

As of September, I am the Coordinator of Journey of Hope Botswana.

Before then I had been involved in doing the PR, design work and public education.

My current role is a combination of my previous roles, advocacy and fund-raising.

The organisation turns 10 this year – what are some of your achievements?

Our biggest achievement is getting breast cancer awareness on the tips of people’s tongues in villages throughout Botswana.

Every year we embark on an awareness drive to clinics, kgotlas and hospitals throughout Botswana – teaching men and women about the signs of breast cancer, and how to conduct a self-examination at home.

Through this ‘Big Journey’ we have teamed up with local nurses and doctors and managed to conduct over 10, 000 free breast examinations.

Impressive stuff! So, what does breast cancer mean to you?

Breast cancer is a disease that has made me realise the importance of making healthier choices in life and taught me to appreciate the gift of life.

Whilst it can be hereditary, studies have shown that our lifestyle choices play a big role in the rise in statistics.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered?

Perception. In the formative years of JOHB, most of the volunteers and riders were Caucasian.

This led people to assume that it was an organisation of white women for white women.

This could not be further from the truth.

We are a Botswana-based NGO for Batswana.

What is the biggest life lesson you have learnt whilst with a Journey of Hope?

Gratitude. I have connected with men and women from all corners of Botswana, during my teachings about breast cancer.

The hard part is losing some of them to breast cancer, because they delayed to get treatment.

So I have learnt to treasure every ‘thank you’ and to not take my own health for granted.

Delving deeper, breast cancer cases appear to be on the rise. Why do you think this is?

Yes, indeed. According to the recently released National Health Strategy, breast cancer and cervical cancer remain the leading causes of cancer deaths in Botswana.

Whilst genetics and age are known causes of breast cancer, it has now been classified as a non-communicable disease, because it is caused by our lifestyle choices.

SHARING IDEAS: Onica Lekuntwane conducting class

Name five vital health tips that should be followed by all.

  • Do not smoke
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cut down on eating processed foods
  • Cut down on your intake of sugar and fat
  • Check any changes to your breasts with your doctor.

The focus in Botswana over the years has predominantly been HIV/AIDS but breast cancer is beginning to dominate conversations. How much of a threat is the disease in the country?

Breast cancer (and other non-communicable diseases) definitely dominate health conversations now.

This is because without changing our lifestyle choices, even manageable diseases like HIV/AIDS become a challenge.

Roughly how many lives are lost to breast cancer in Botswana every year?

Whilst we do not have the exact statistic, what we can state is that lives are lost to breast cancer because about 70 percent of the patients only come to the hospital when they are in the latter stages of the disease.

This is because they are unaware of the earlier signs as they are usually not painful.

Signs such as?

The most common one is a breast lump that grows gradually.

You can also get a nipple discharge, your one breast may grow larger than the other and even change colour.

It can also present itself as a rash or an open sore that does not heal.

Most of these signs are painless, so most people ignore them.

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, typically what is the next step? What does the treatment involve?

At JOHB we usually assist the men and women that we meet during our Big Journey.

We send them to Bokamoso Private Hospital for a breast Ultrasound and Mammogram.

If the scan results show a suspicious lump, this is followed by another test called a Biopsy.

If the results are positive, we help the patients to get appointments at the Breast Clinic, at Princess Marina Hospital.

This is where they will get examined again by a team of doctors and given their treatment plan.

This is usually a combination of Chemotherapy, Surgery and Radiotherapy.

We also help the patients to connect to other cancer Fighters, through a support group called The Fighters Support Group.

It is often assumed that breast cancer only affects females. Are men not at risk too?

Good point. Breast cancer affects both men and women.

This is because both men and women have breasts.

The breast area includes the underarm (legwafa) and chest (sehuba).

So if you notice any changes in the appearance of these areas of your body, go and see your doctor.

No matter whether you are a man or woman.

Tell us about the upcoming campaign?

We are excited about our upcoming campaign ‘Go moDiatlengTsaGago’ which features breast cancer fighters and survivors sharing why they chose to take their breast health in their own hands.

We hope that seeing, reading and hearing the stories of real breast cancer heroes and heroines will encourage people to take responsibility for their own health.

What else do you do besides your Journey of Hope work?

Because of my love for children and passion for issues of culture and identity, I am also known as ‘MmaagweRati’.

Under this pseudonym I write and illustrate edutainment content for children under the Rati and Friends brand.

Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this weekend?

I love my family time so I will be drawing with my son! He is so much into that!

Twitter: @sharonmathala

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Kicking for the girls



Kicking for the girls

Transforming BW women’s football

In the history of football, women are rarely given a chance to showcase their talents when it comes to administration.

37-year-old Tsholofelo Sethoko is looking to change that.

In August, the Maun-native was named Head of Women Football in Botswana in an effort to resurrect the local ladies game.

Although performances on the pitch have been admirable – as evidenced by the senior national team’s Olympic qualifying victory over South Africa earlier this year – the sport has been crippled by a lack of finances.

Sethoko’s mandate is to come up with strategies to help women’s football regain its status.

Her impressive resume suggests she is the perfect individual for the job.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from University of Botswana, Diploma in International Coaching in Hungary, FIFA Club Administrators Course, CAF Women Administrative Course, and FIFA Basic level for Coaches and Assistant coaches, FA Introduction to Coaching Girls and Women football, if Sethoko can’t do it, it’s hard to see who can!

Voice Sport’s Tshepo Kehimile kicked back with the great hope of local women’s football to discuss her journey to date and what to expect in the future.

Q. When did your passion for sport start?

I was born and raised into a football family. My father, Letlhogile Sethoko was a manager for Maun Tigers FC, which was a big club back in my youth days.

Attending football games was a norm every Saturday and Sunday as a family and my mother Dorcus Sethoko was one of the first female referees in Maun.

My parents are big supporters of Township Rollers – (laughing) I became an outsider and supported Notwane FC but that was the influence of working with Christopher Rabalago, who was a development coach there in 2003.

I must say he produced talented players like Letumile Molebatsi, Galagwe Moyana, Kereng Mpetang and Lemogang Maswena just to mention a few.

I was part of that youth development programme and the only female coach.

Q. What are your ambitions?

My enthusiasm and belief that football is for all took me to where I am today.

There was a lot of resistance as many believe a women’s place is in the kitchen; but I believe my place lies with my passion for anything I want to be in this world as a woman.

Dwayne Johnson once said, ‘Don’t be afraid to be ambitious about your goals, hard work never stops, neither should your DREAMS.’

Q. Who is your role model in terms of sports administration?

I look up to Ashford Mamelodi who is one of the best Football administrators we have in Africa.

His passion and dedication to the development of football is tremendous.

Please share your personal experience.

Being able to work with amazing football people who pushed me to the limit and made sure that there was a place for women in Botswana football.

I worked with great Premier League teams – Gaborone United and Notwane FC – and coaches like Major David Bright, China Odirile Matlhaku, Rasta Kgengwenyane, Christopher Rabalago and working with Technical Directors like Losika Keatholetswe, Sonnyboy Sethibe who believed I had what it takes to be a female coach/administrator pushed me even harder to make my mark in the sport industry.

I also I got the opportunity to work for one of the biggest fitness brand in Botswana at Virgin Active Health Club as the Fitness Manager for five years and there I got to learn a few skills in terms of administration affairs especially managing people, customer service, budgeting and leading just to mention a few which drilled me on how to become an effective manager.

Furthermore, I am working with the current BFA Technical Director, Serame Letsoaka, who has been guiding me since day one in my new post.

I believe what I am learning from him, I will use to achieve my goals, which are to bring positive value to my country.

I am excited with this new prospect because I am working directly with strong women like Tsoseletso Magang, who has achieved a lot in our local sports.

I am confident women’s football will go forward.

Q. How do you rate the standard of women’s football in Botswana?

I think the sport has grown over the years. This year, the girl’s impressive World Cup qualifiers performance was an example of growth in our football.

Even though the standard of football in Botswana is still low there is so much talent and positives, especially with 5 out of 17 regions in Botswana already playing in a leagues set up – which are Gaborone, Kweneng, Francistown, Boteti and Nhabe.

However, local women’s football is faced with serious challenges such as lack of interest from leadership, no database for players, coaches, referees and administrators, lack of funds and limited media coverage just to mention a few – hence it is difficult to proceed.

Q. What must be done to improve the standard?

Firstly, BFA in collaboration with FIFA has just finished a strategy plan for women in Botswana that will guide and give direction to women football.

The strategy has four priority foundations and they are as follows: Coaching and Capacity Building – undertaking the needs assessments of our local women football coaches and referees. Making sure there is a serious coach education programme for our coaches, who I believe are our custodians and play a big part in insuring there is development in our country.

Grassroots and Player Development – a player’s long-term pathway in the development of football is very important with appropriate age specific categories.

Making sure that we develop sustainable school football programmes with school of excellence centers equipped with highly skilled coaches plays a key tool to the development of women football in Botswana.

Grassroots development and youth leagues for U15 and U17 are a priority for me in my mandate to grow mass participation of women football in the country.

Structure and Administration- without trained regional administrators to administer the programmes then we have nothing.

BFA has been on a journey for the past few months with the ‘Time For Change’ training programme in different regions and Administrations Training as the core for the initiative in collaboration with Ashford Mamelodi in a movement to develop football Administrators.

I think this initiative will also benefit women football as we have women football administrators being trained in regions.

Changing Perceptions – education and awareness of women football is very important as we have to teach the nation in breaking the stereotype that football is for boys.

Everyone can play football, the young, old, girls and boys. One of the key objectives for FIFA is to make football accessible to all kids of all backgrounds.

Q. In your current post, what do you hope to achieve?

I would like to see the implementation of sustainable grassroots programs with highly trained coaches in the following schools of excellence for girls in the four blocks of Botswana being: Radisele Community Junior Secondary School (CJSS), Madiba Senior School, Tsabong Unified school and Mogoditshane Senior School and equipped with four secondment of national team coaches overseeing and monitoring the programs of the project to develop our girls.

This will be done to feed National Leagues and National teams.

Coaching and capacity building is another main concern for me as I have observed that 90 percent of coaches involved with women football are not qualified to be coaches for our football programs.

Having them trained is a priority! School Football is another area that can help our youth development for under 15 and 17 become successful.

Q. What is the future of local women’s football?

FIFA has taken two important steps for the continuous development of the women’s game beyond its flagship event.

First was the inauguration meeting of the FIFA Professional Women’s Football Task-force this year in France.

The objective of the task-force is to bring together the main women’s football stakeholders to inform FIFA’s decision making processes by identifying key areas and measures that can accelerate the future growth of women’s professional game.

FIFA has also increased finance by 20 percent for women football and to me this shows that the future is bright.

Q. What advice can you give to aspiring female footballers?

Every girl deserves a place to play football and every player deserves to strive for the impossible.

There should be no limitations, because women’s football is football for all and as BFA we commit to making a difference.

This journey is not only for the Association but for all stakeholders!

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday – what are your plans for the weekend?

I’ll be watching the Botswana Games as our women’s national teams are preparing for Under 17 and 20 World Cup qualifiers and most of our players will be taking part.

On Sunday it’s church.

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The second city’s new queen



The second city’s new queen

Miss Francistown makes glamorous return

Eight years after she first took up pageantry, Utlwanang Tidimalo Matibini has reached a new high in her blossoming career.

The stunning 23-year-old was crowned Miss Francistown 2019 in a glitzy, well-attended event held at Adansonia Hotel on Saturday.

Outshining her 11 competitors, Matibini, who hails from Mowana village, walked away with P3, 500 as well as a trip to Swakopmund, Namibia – a prize sponsored by White Honda.

For the ambitious youngster, her triumph in the second city is the latest step towards her ultimate dream of national glory.

Speaking to Voice Entertainment on Tuesday, looking every bit the beauty queen in a figure-hugging red dress with matching lipstick to perfectly complement her dazzling smile, Matibini said, “I want to compete in Miss Botswana since they have reduced the height.”

Reflecting on her Ghetto triumph, a victory she attributed to her big heart and thorough preparations, the young beauty quipped happily, “I feel it represents a lot about me since I am a Kalanga and I am really proud to have won it.

However, Miss Francistown’s ambition goes way beyond the catwalk.

“I want to start my own pageant next year. I want it to be well established and successful in the next five years!” revealed the Limkokwing University BA Hons Broadcasting and Journalism student.

Indeed, Matibini intends to use her new title to bring about change in Francistown.

“I have a project that deals with cyber bullying since it destroys an individual’s confidence. Miss University Africa is willing to work with me. We will be going around the schools teaching students about it. I am going to use my title to stand against cyber bullying!”

First held in 2015, this was the third edition of Miss Francistown, with the 2016 and 18 pageants cancelled due to lack of sponsorship.

Matibini emerged a deserved winner, wowing the judges with her confidence, radiant smile and hypnotising walk. She also impressed with her cyber bullying project and insightful answers during the question round.

For her part, one of the organisers, Masego Mercy Phale was quick to thanks the sponsers for making this year’s pageant possible.

“A number of local sponsors came on board, including VULA, which provided water during the Grand Finale. Chicken Licken also extended their hand to provide our judging panel with food. Furthermore, Red Keeps Investment provided sound and photography while Fashion Keeps provided the beauty pageants with full attire during the Grand Finale,” she said.

Outlining the ‘deeper meaning’ behind Miss Francistown, Phale explained, “The purpose of this competition is to help young girls realize their potential. It helps them to avoid negative and social ills like drugs and others.

“In terms of funds raised, the competition did not reach the target we had set – we were expecting to raise at least P16, 000 from ticket sales but didn’t quite manage. Still the turn-out was impressive, with over 200 tickets sold,” declared Phale, adding they intend to pull-out all the stops for next year’s show.

As for Matibini’s First and Second Princesses, the titles went to Kamogelo Letlhokwa and Mililani Mathumo respectively. The two ladies received P2, 500 and P1, 500 each.

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HCC is back



HCC is back

Monate Fela brings another sizzling edition of the annual Home Coming Concert courtesy of the Legendary Easy B.

The show, slated for 24th December at Mahalapye Railways Stadium, will feature South African stars such as, Master KG of ‘Limpopo’, ‘Waya Waya’ and ‘Jerusalem’ hits, DJ Maphorisa and DJ Jury.

The all-fire line-up also includes the likes of Vee, African Yard, Kuchi, Ban T, Veezo View, Tshego, Shasha, Cairo and Kabza De Small. Sadi will be the MC.

Tickets are selling at P150 general and P600 VIP.

Gates open at midday until 0600hrs.

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