Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Between the school break, funding issues, counterpart transfers, agitating community leaders, etc etc etc, I'm in a bit of slow spot. Sooo, I'm just going to focus on making friends and taking pictures. Peace Corps Goals #2 and #3: Check.

Monday, March 11, 2013

International Women's Day

March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of women around the globe as well as provides an opportunity to address all that still has a long way to go in reaching gender equality.

While gender issues of every magnitude plague Botswana, most shocking are the high rates of violence against women. For a country with a well deserved reputation of a peaceful nation, physical and sexual abuse are rampant and what the media has dubbed as ‘passion killings’ occur in alarming frequency. I rather hate the term ‘passion killing’ as it sounds like something out of a soap opera. The reality of it is a murdered woman, often someone who has been accused of cheating, and occasionally the 'other man' and suicide of her partner.  The crimes are ususally brutal and plastered all over the media- in fact, this week my counterparts pulled out three recent news articles detailing murders and attacks involving an ax, acid, and knives.  Botswana is no stranger to rape either, often hidden away as a private matter. Defilement (what Americans call statutory rape) is another frequent issue, especially between teachers in students.

In spite of several acts of legislation relating to GBV, many cases go unreported, often teachers are simply transferred with no other consequences, and there is still no law against marital rape. And these are not just far away problems to me; in the 11 months I have been in Botswana, I have seen or heard rumor of all of these issues.

Students categorizing healthy/unhealthy relationship habits
With an apt theme this year: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women, International Women’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to talk gender based violence with my community. Etsha 13 had a health talk focusing on GBV, both of my PACT Clubs discussed gender versus sex and healthy relationships and my fellow PCVs and I wrapped up our final GLOW camp over the weekend. The camps have been incredibly fun, but also EXHAUSTING as 30+ energetic primary students require copious amounts of attention, plus there’s the language barrier. In spite of whole new set of kinks to work out than experienced with the previous three camps, everything went smoothly once we started and we had some of the best conversations about gender issues, life skills, and HIV.  

As for March 8th, Voices of the Community, the anti-GBV group, introduced themselves in the Gumare Kgotla with the Kgosis/Chiefs. It was a big step because the group is finally registered in Botswana and it opens doors for the community leaders to learn about what we want to do. The meeting wasn’t quite what we anticipated but it provided opportunities to connect with individual wards. So, more hoops to jump through but in the end more people will be reached and we’ll get them in smaller groups, which is often more effective anyway. It was so exciting to finally be official, and on International Women’s Day!

Voices of the Community at our first Kgotla meeting

So, it has been a busy week full of gender related activities! Throughout the week, I’ve had to remind myself that behavior change happens snail pace. It’s easy to only see the teachers in relationships with their 15 year old students or the frequency in which women are treated like second class citizens. But what I find most hopeful are all of the girls who want to be presidents, scientists, or most creatively among a sea of teachers and nurses, meteorologists. Girls who speak up just as much as boys in sessions and boys who can point out what is part of an unhealthy versus healthy relationship. Women like Keitumetse, the leader of Voices of the Community and Gumare’s female Kgosi. Even the older folks in my village who every once in awhile you see a glimmer of change registering with them. Do I think anything I've said this week is going to change what he or she does tomorrow? Absolutely not. But maybe, and really I can only hope, the activities from this week provide reinforcement that women are not second class citizens, they shouldn't expect physical punishment for disobedience, and we shouldn't look the other way when teachers have relationships with students.