PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC, OF
BOTSWANA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
103 EAST 37TH STREET • NEW YORK, N.Y. 10016
TEL. (212) 889-2277
Hon. Thebe David Mogami
Minister of Labour and Home Affairs
Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assembly
Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and
Peace for the Twenty-First Century
New York, 8 June, 2000
Botswana would like to thank the United Nations system and all Member States for their commitment to the advancement of women and all those who have made a concerted effort to bring about the convening of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century".
During the last three days, Member States and United Nations agencies have engaged in reflections on the progress, constraints and challenges experienced in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. I would therefore like to add Botswana's contribution to what has been said.
The preparation for the UN Fourth World Conference on Women provided an important opportunity to consolidate ongoing efforts to advance the cause of women in Botswana. The preparatory activities undertaken by the Botswana Government and the Women's Non- Governmental Organisations led to a new collaboration between Government and civil society, which made it possible to identify six out of the twelve critical areas of concern documented in the Beijing Platform of Action as priority issues. The following are the six critical areas as adopted by Botswana women in order of priority:
WOMEN AND POVERTY, INCLUDING WOMEN'S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT is Botswana's first prioritised national area of concern. Women in Botswana tend to suffer poverty and economic marginalisation more acutely than men. A number of factors contribute to the differentials in the experience of poverty and economic disadvantage between the two groups. These factors include legal and cultural norms that restrict women's access to, and control of, productive resources. Gender inequalities also exist in the education system and this impacts negatively on poverty alleviation strategies. The Government has put in place poverty eradication policies and programmes in order to increase women's access to productive resources such as credit, training, and others. NGO's also provide support to women's economic activities so as to improve their economic status.
On the issue of WOMEN IN POWER AND DECISION MAKING, Botswana recognises that participation of women in decision-making at all levels of public and private life is an important issue of human rights, as well as the strengthening of the democratic process. In an effort to address the existing disparities, my Government has embarked on political education, social mobilisation, lobbying and advocacy. Other partners, particularly the NGOs, network with political parties and their women's wings, so as to encourage political parties to endorse women's demands which are included in their manifestos. As a result of these efforts, representation of women in the Botswana Parliament has increased from 9 % in 1994 to 18.2 % in 1999, while in cabinet it increased from 12.5 % in 1994 to 23.5 % in 1999. The representation of women at Permanent Secretary level is presently at 25 % . The Botswana Public Service and the Country Central Bank are led by women. There are programmes in place to build women's leadership and management capacity, as well as affirmative action in the selection of specially nominated councillors and members of Parliament. The major challenges in this area are the limited resources for campaigns and political education, prevailing gender stereotypes and the absence of a comprehensive affirmative action plan focusing on promoting gender equality at all levels.
Regarding the issue of EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF WOMEN, Botswana is committed to the ideal of education as a basic human right. Our National Policy on Education has been revised and vocational and technical education has been expanded to attract more women. The special education needs of young mothers are addressed by women's NGOs which provide young mothers an opportunity to complete their studies through secondary and tertiary levels.
The major challenges in this area include limited day care facilities, teenage pregnancy, low enrolment of females in science and technical education programmes, as well as gender biased curricula and teaching materials.
In the area of WOMEN AND HEALTH, it is important to bear in mind the fact that one's health and well being are outcomes of the economic, social, political and cultural context in which people lead their lives. In the case of Botswana, women lack full and equal participation in the cited context, and therefore experience different and additional health barriers. For example, inequality in access to education restricts women's capacity to make informed choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health, as well as available health care services. Nevertheless, Botswana has made some strides in this area of Women and Health. Since 1995, Botswana has revised the Family Planning guidelines with the aim of removing barriers to accessing health services by women and girls. There is also an integration of STD and HIV/AIDS prevention with family planning services and reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV. There has been an increased attention on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, as well as an improvement in health information that resulted in a reduction of teenage pregnancy. In addition, a National AIDS Council has been reconstituted and is chaired by the President.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, is one of the pervasive and escalating social problems in Botswana. In trying to overcome the problem, the Government recently carried out a Study on the Socio Economic Implications of Violence Against Women. On the basis of this study recommendations, a multi-sectoral approach will be taken to develop a national implementation plan. Among the several measures undertaken by Botswana with regard to violence against women are the ratification of CEDAW in 1996; the amendment of the Penal Code Act which has improved laws relating to rape, the establishment of a shelter for battered women; and establishment of the Botswana Police and NGO's task force on domestic violence. Recently the Botswana Police released a report of a study on the extent of rape in Botswana, which is a positive step in the right direction. There are various NGO's that are undertaking human rights education and are promoting the fact that women's rights are human rights.
In 1997, Botswana Government commissioned a review of all the laws that discriminate against women with the view to amend them. In order to enhance the implementation of the six critical areas, Botswana had to put in place institutional mechanisms and these include the elevation of the National Gender Machinery into a Department, the promulgation of a National Policy on Women in Development, the formulation of the National Gender Programme Framework, strengthening of the Women's Non Governmental Organisation Coalition and other civil society organizations dealing with gender issues, the formation of the National Council on Women and its sub-committees focusing on the six critical areas of concern.
The general perception on the advancement of women has changed significantly in the last five years in my country. This is a result of nation wide gender awareness building efforts, which include international bodies, regional forums, governments, private sector and civil society particularly the women's NGOs. Botswana believes that the achievement of gender equality requires the full involvement of both men and women, as well as boys and girls in a participatory process. This will ensure. that the ultimate social transformation process is sustained.
In conclusion Mr. President, Botswana remains committed to the Beijing Platform for Action. We will do everything in our power to pursue the implementation of the Platform to its logical conclusion. We hope that this Session which is very important to all of us, will produce an outcome document that will strengthen further action to implement the Platform for Action.
I thank you Mr. President.