Sunday, May 10, 2009

Speech by His Excellency the President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the DCP Women`s Wing Congress in Tsabong

source: Republic of Botswana (9/5/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 13 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


Your Honour the Vice President
Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe
Chairman Hon D K Kwelagobe
Secretary General Hon J D Nkate
Members of the Central Committee
Chairpersons of the BDP Women’s Wing Ms Tebelelo Seretse Members of the Women’s Wing Executive Committee Distinguished Delegates

1. Last year I addressed the Youth Wing of our Party in Gumare. I am glad that this year the BDP Women’s Wing is meeting in Tsabong, the district headquarters of Kgalagadi District. Both Gumare and Tsabong are major centres in the rural hinterland of Botswana. It is of utmost importance that we should keep the profile of our Party high in the rural areas.

2. Our infrastructure development programme also confirms our determination as a Party and as a government to take development to where the majority of our people live. As a result of this success, I can now stand before you and pronounce that very soon one will be able to travel on a tarred road all the way from Bokspits in the South West to Shakawe in the North West and even to Semolale and Gobajango on our border with Zimbabwe.

3. Although we are a Party whose membership covers the entire spectrum of our population and who’s spread on the ground extends to all parts of our country, we must acknowledge that women are the most dominant population group in our membership. As such, it would not be farfetched to attribute much of our success as a party and as a government to the support we receive from Batswana women. Of course, men have played their part as well, but we do owe a debt of gratitude to you, Women of Botswana.

4. Fellow Democrats, as you are aware, Botswana is signatory to a number of regional and international instruments amongst them those on gender equality. I stand before you today with the fresh memory prompted by the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus when they came to see me a few of weeks ago, on the stance that Botswana took at the last summit when the Protocol on Gender and Development was adopted by SADC member states in August 2008.

5. My response to them was that Botswana was not ready to sign the protocol basically because of the mandatory language used in crafting most of the clauses that we consider critical. It is my view that, much as the Executive has the mandate to sign international instruments, such commitment should be made only when there is absolute certainty that legislative instruments, local policies and national priorities will not be adversely affected by such action. In the event that new laws may be required as a result of our signing, I consider it only proper that I must make the opportunity available to consult Parliament before I bind the nation.

6. Be that as it may, I have studied the objectives of the protocol which are; to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality through development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects, to address emerging gender issues and concerns; set realistic, measurable targets, time frames and indicators for achieving gender equality and equity; to name some of the objectives.

7. Looking at the list of objectives, Botswana has fulfilled most of the requirements in legislative reform as well as socio-economic policies. This is demonstrated largely by the increasing numbers of women, both in government and the private sector who hold executive, director and ambassadorial positions. One other reason why we had difficulty with the protocol is that it commits member states to comply within set time frames, within which certain legislation should be put in place and institutions established. We considered some of the time frames unrealistic, and some of the measures have serious resource implications that we cannot guarantee. Other international instruments allow member states to sign and register their reservations on clauses that they are uncomfortable with. This option was not available to Botswana since the SADC Treaty does not allow for adoption of any Protocols with reservations. These are our reasons for not signing. Let me reiterate that, Botswana identifies with and is committed to the objectives of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Our policies and programmes as well as resources allocated to the sector demonstrate this and will continue to do so.

8. I must however reassure you, that as Botswana, we do agree with the spirit of the protocol. Our intention therefore, is to continue to study its provisions, and use our best endeavours to act within that spirit. In this way, I believe, we would be placing ourselves in a position that brings us closer to becoming a party to the protocol.

9. We still have some hurdles to overcome in changing the attitudes of our society towards the changes occurring in their roles. Our culture, traditions and norms have a lot of good that we must retain, but it would be unrealistic to pretend that some of those traditions should not be allowed to blend into life as it obtains in present day Botswana. My greatest concern is the declining number of women who will be contesting the next general national elections. You will already be aware that of the 57 candidates that we will field for parliament, only three are women. At the local government level I am informed that there are very few constituencies that have more than 40% representation by women. This is a worrying trend indeed. I know that it is not out of a lack of capability or willingness by women to stand for positions of responsibility at Council and Parliamentary level. There are possibly many reasons why fewer women seem to be standing in this year’s elections. I therefore hope that in your deliberations you will help establish the obstacles and suggest ways of overcoming them. I remain committed to help where I can. That is why I have recommended that the time has come for women to hold leadership positions in the party. And I sincerely hope that this time around you will unite as women to achieve this, and support women candidates for Central Committee positions in the July 2009 Congress.

10. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Hon B Tshireletso for tabling the motion that requested parliament to consider increasing the number of specially elected Members of Parliament from four to eight. I thank those Members of Parliament who put up a good fight in debating the motion; and giving their support and securing its passage, through their vote. When the Chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, and her team came to see me, I promised that I would favourably consider their request that at least four of the eight seats would be reserved for women.

11. I must emphasize, that as you conduct your elections, you must remember that as Democrats to ‘Put Party First’, a commitment most of us renewed recently at our national council. All elections should be used as an opportunity to strengthen and renew our passion for the party; they should not be viewed as a stepping stone to pursue individual agendas with factional tendencies. Our ability to lead as individuals should be measured in our own ability to let others lead. I expect you to leave this congress with renewed vigour, especially that we need all the energy we can amass as we go into the 2009 elections.

12. Your Chairperson, Ms. Tebelelo Seretse has already publicly announced that she is not seeking another mandate as Chairperson of the BDP Women’s Wing. I therefore take this opportunity to commend her for providing good leadership during her term of office. She made a big impact during the meetings of the Central Committee towards our attempts to propel our party further forward. I wish her well in her future endeavours and look forward to working with her in those.

13. Finally, Bommaetsho, we have less than 6 months to go before Batswana go to the polls. I count on your hard work and commitment to ensure that our party wins these elections convincingly. And I know, you can do it if you put your mind to it.
I thank you. TSHOLETSA!

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