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Botswana is a fast consolidating democracy. Since independence seven general elections have been held in Botswana. All of these, with minor exceptions, in one or two constituencies were considered free and fair. The next election, the eighth in a five-year series is due in 1999. Over the years institutions of democratic governance have emerged and consolidated. Political parties have been formed and the major ones evolved to the stage where a change of political power from one party to another has become a reality. From the appearance of things this should happen in a smooth and peaceful way.
The Parliament and councils have established their mark as institutions of democratic governance. At the same time a clear and participatory role has been defined for traditional leadership institutions of the chieftaincy and the kgotla. In the past decade, the democratic culture has also evolved beyond the holding of elections. Political parties have evolved the All-Party Conference, the administration of elections has passed from the civil service to an independent electoral commission, the voting age has been lowered from 21 to 18 years and postal voting for citizens residing outside Botswana has been introduced.
More recently, evidence of system-reproduction, whereby old leaders retire to give opportunities to younger generations has begun within political parties and at a national level. For the first time in her history, Botswana will in 1998 have a new President while the previous one is still alive. This follows the recent announcement (10th November 1997), by President Masire that he will retire at the end of March 1998. Within political parties new and young men and women members of parliament, councillors and others in the leadership structures of their parties have come on stream in large numbers not known before.
The media and other forms of communication have also established themselves effectively in Botswana's political culture. Equally, if not
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more important, is that Botswana society has changed significantly over the years. The population has increased in size and changed in structure. From a mere 500,000 people in the late 1960s, Botswana's population is estimated at 1,600,000 people in 1997, of which more than 60% are aged less than 30 years. The literacy rate has also increased from around 5% at independence to around 74% in the 1990s. The same population has shifted from being largely rural (96%) at independence to close to 50% urban in the 1990s. Formal non-agricultural activities have taken over as the leading sectors of the economy providing over 200,000 formal jobs to the countries labour force.
Botswana of the 1990s is truly a different society. The leadership too must be different in order to cope with the new demands and continue to be relevant to the needs of the population. This booklet is meant to help particularly those who need some guidance beyond that provided by their political parties and the political institutions in which they operate. As mentioned in the acknowledgements, this booklet is a guide not a blueprint. Blueprints do not exist in politics. Politics is far too dynamic and blueprints can only serve to freeze this dynamism.
The workshop, which led to the production of this booklet, was organised with the background knowledge that historically, women have suffered disadvantage in leadership. Women have been discriminated against and made to believe that leadership positions in the family, community, national and international institutions/organisations were not for them but for their male counterparts. Women in Botswana, as elsewhere in the world, have therefore taken a backseat or even retreated from taking up positions of leadership. The result has been their continued domination by male counterparts who cannot claim to have represented them effectively. Women remain socially, politically and culturally both intimidated and disadvantaged.
Realising this anomaly, in preparation to Botswana's 1994 General Elections, Emang Basadi developed a detailed political manifesto
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(platform of political demands) and conducted several training workshops to assist women to stand for elections and articulate their demands as stated in the manifesto.
A number of political parties responded by fielding women candidates mostly at council level during the 1994 general and local elections. A substantial number of these women candidates were successfully elected and are now in councils and parliament as representatives of their communities. Following the elections and as part of its general support to women programs, Emang Basadi assisted women political leaders to form themselves into a caucus which helps them speak with one voice on issues that affect them as women.
The Caucus has already held a few workshops aimed at enhancing women's leadership skills. This booklet sums up the proceedings of the most recent workshop in a series, one on the subject of effective representation. This topic was considered relevant for women representatives because many of them are new arrivals in political leadership.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Juni 1999