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Update on the Women's Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?

  • Gretchen Bauer

Across Africa in the early twenty-first century, autonomous women's movements have transformed the political landscape. With their support, African women are lobbying for constitutional reforms, entering political office in unprecedented numbers, and initiating legislation to expand women's rights. African women's movements have been emboldened by changes in international and regional norms concerning women's rights and representation, a new availability of resources to enhance women's status, and in many places, an end to conflict. In Botswana, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of heightened women's mobilization. Led by the women's organization Emang Basadi, the women's movement accomplished many significant victories, including winning a landmark citizenship case, prompting a comprehensive review of laws to identify instances of gender discrimination, issuing the first women's manifesto in Africa, and organizing workshops for political parties and women candidates. Some scholars have suggested that Emang Basadi's work was responsible not just for increasing women's representation in parliament, but also for broadening democracy in Botswana. Since 2010, however, a once vibrant women's movement has gone quiet. This article seeks to understand this development and to explore how the movement might be revitalized. The article concludes by drawing comparisons with other women's movements in the region and suggesting that the women's movement in Botswana, like others in the region, may be, in the words of one scholar, “in abeyance.”


À travers l'Afrique du début du vingt-et-unième siècle, les mouvements féministes autonomes ont transformé la scène politique. Grâce à leur soutien, les femmes africaines font du lobbying pour obtenir des réformes constitutionnelles. Elles s'engagent en nombres records dans les milieux politiques et amorcent des prqjets de législation pour les droits des femmes. Les mouvements féministes africains ont été encouragés par l'évolution des normes internationales et régionales concernant les droits et la représentation des femmes, ainsi qu'une accessibilité nouvelle des ressources pour améliorer le statut des femmes et, dans, plusieurs régions, pour mettre fin aux conflits. Au Botswana, les années 80 et 90 furent une période d'accentuation de la mobilisation des femmes. Mené par l'organisation féministe Emang Basadi, le mouvement a obtenu plusieurs victoires importantes, dont un procès décisif sur un cas de citoyenneté entraînant une révision complète des lois afin d'identifier des cas de discrimination sexiste. Il en a résulté le premier manifeste féministe d'Afrique, et des ateliers de sensibilisation pour les partis politiques et les candidates féminines. Certains universitaires ont indiqué que les efforts de Emang Basadi avaient conduit non seulement à l'augmentation de la représentation féminine au Parlement, mais également à un élargissement de la démocratie au Botswana. Depuis 2010 en revanche, le mouvement féministe auparavant si actif est devenu silencieux. Get essai cherche à comprendre cette évolution, et à explorer les moyens de revitaliser ce mouvement. L'argument se conclut par des comparaisons avec d'autres mouvements féministes de la région, et la suggestion que le mouvement féministe au Botswana, comme d'autres dans la région, pourrait être, selon les mots d'un spécialiste, “en suspens.”

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Personal Interviews and Communications

Alexander, Elsie. Lecturer, University of Botswana; former officer of WODPLAC. Gaborone, March 13, 2009.
Chigedze, Chinyepi. BOCONGO Gender Sector coordinator. Gaborone, June 19, 2009.
Chimela, Violet. BNF National Elections board chair. Gaborone, May 29, 2009.
Gaboeletswe, Kealebogo. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung program officer. Gaborone, February 6, 2009.
Kgosipula, Mokgweetsi. BNF Assistant Secretary General. Gaborone, May 29, 2009.
Kokorwe, Gladys. Member of Parliament, Minister of Youth and Sport. Gaborone, March 3, 2009.
Letsie, Lebohang. Senior lecturer, University of Botswana; founding member of Emang Basadi; former officer of WODPLAC. Gaborone, June 4, 2009.
Masire, Quett. Former president of Botswana. Gaborone, May 26, 2009.
Modisaotsile, Segametsi, Emang Basadi Political Education Project coordinator. Gaborone, May 18, 2009.
Mohwasa, Moeti. BNF Information and Publicity Secretary. Forwarded e-mail communication from Amy Poteete, December 4, 2010.
Molema, Leloba. Senior lecturer, University of Botswana; founding member of Emang Basadi. Gaborone, March 9, 2009.
Molokomme, Athaliah. Attorney General; founding member of Emang Basadi. Gaborone, May 27, 2009.
Mooki, Maungo. Gender activist. Gaborone, June 16, 2009; e-mail communication, July 22, 2009.
Seboko, Kgosigadi Mosadi. Balete Paramount Ghief. Ramotswa, June 15, 2009.
Sekgororoane, Rhoda. Former vice president, BGWP. Gabarone, May 15, 2009.
Selolwane, Onalenna. Senior lecturer, University of Botswana; founding member of Emang Basadi. Gaborone, March 11, 2009; e-mail communication, November 26, 2010.
Tshireletso, Botlogile. Member of Parliament, Gaborone, April 8, 2009.
Wareus, Tshepo Chape. BCWP publicity secretary, Gaborone, April 11, 2009.

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