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By John Chola

ZAMBIA has finally launched the global Vision Zero campaign, a process aimed at building a culture of prevention of occupational accidents that integrates safety, health and wellness.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Simukoko told hundreds of delegates from around the globe and within Zambia gathered in Livingstone for the official launch that the global Vision Zero campaign was premised on the belief that all occupational accidents and diseases are preventable.

Simukoko said the campaign resonates well with the policies of the Government of Zambia that seek to address occupational safety and health at work places across the country.

In a speech read for her by Ministry of Labour and Social Security Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga on Friday December 14, 2018, Simukoko noted that occupational accidents and diseases, present colossal social and economic burdens to enterprises in the local and global economy.

She added that the attendant impact of injuries, disease and deaths was directly interpreted in appalling human and financial stress on communities and countries across the world.

“My Government has put in place adequate social security systems, for the protection of workers against employment injuries and diseases; this is because life and health can never be exchanged for any other benefits.

“Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will demonstrate through cooperation and dialogue that it is possible to create safe and healthy workplaces by embracing the Vision Zero campaign in Zambia,” affirmed Simukoko.

The minister further said that the Vision Zero campaign must guarantee the freedom to work in healthy and safe environment for all workers in Zambia.

“We all know that the human and social stress attributed to occupational hazards pose a real challenge for the Zambian as well as global economy with over 2.8 million deaths and 394 million accidents attributed to employment related activities.

“These numbers are way too high and therefore the need for a paradigm shift at every level of organisation from one of fault-finding, to one that focuses on finding solutions to prevent injuries and ill-health cannot be over emphasised,” Simukoko explained.

She said that the launch of Vision Zero campaign in Zambia was a timely intervention by the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) in collaboration with the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

She commended the WCFCB and its local and international partners for taking a proactive approach to accident prevention and supporting the Government in taking leadership to ensure that workplaces in Zambia were safe and healthy.

Simukoko stated that the Vision Zero campaign was a positive response to the aspirations of the Government on the need to deliver a vibrant social security system that protects citizens against poverty, and destitution arising from employment-related injuries, diseases and deaths.

“Striving for a world without fatalities or injuries is one of the greatest challenges that confront us all, and to respond to these challenges we need to keep abreast with the latest developments, and constantly review existing legislation and policies on occupational safety and health in Zambia.

“My Government wishes to assure all partners involved that we fully embrace and support the Vision Zero campaign in the country because it confirms the commitment to oversee the implementation of policies that are seeking to transform into an efficient and effective organisation,” the minister said.

She made a clarion call to all stakeholders, especially employers to join the Vision Zero campaign and ensure that Zambia as a country delivered workplaces that were safe and healthy for all workers in the country by 2030.

WCFCB Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Nkumbula praised ISSA and partner organisations for delivering the promise on the launch of the Vision Zero campaign as collectively planned.

She explained that the Vision Zero campaign was a global undertaking launched by the ISSA during its 21st World Congress in September 2017 as a response to the increased number of occupational accidents across the world.

Nkumbula said that, in order to address stakeholder concerns on occupational accidents at workplaces, the ISSA introduced the Vision Zero Campaign as a transformation approach to prevention that embraces three dimensions being safety, health and well-being at all work places.

She said that the Vision Zero Campaign had been aligned to Zambia’s national Vision 2030, adding that it was her organisation’s expectation and hope that the preventable accidents and occupational diseases would be reduced by then.

Some of the local partners that worked closely with the ZCFCB in the launch include National Pension Scheme Authority (Napsa), Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco), Local Authority Superannuation Fund (LASF), Zambia Sugar, Public Service Pensions Fund and National Construction Council (NCC).

Others are Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) Road Development Agency (RDA and Indeni.

Before the launch, Zambia through the WCFCB had been holding stakeholder meetings to build momentum around the country towards the Vision Zero campaign.

Capes have always been synonymous with superheroes, from Batman, and Superman, to captain marvel etc., capes are believed to empower superheroes with magical wings, and the ability to fly to the rescue, and do amazing things like save the planet or destroy the enemy.

It’s a little wonder that these capes have found their way onto the backs of the real-life superheroes, as they have become a part of the modern-day women’s clothing designs. Women are Afterall, the superheroes in our everyday lives.

We’ve all come across the famous cape-like jackets and other cape inspired designs, making the rounds in the 2018 fashion scene.

From the stunning Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2016 cape jacket design, snatched off the runway by Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari, to the amazing cape inspired wedding outfit with which the famous American tennis superstar, Serena Williams, dazzled the world at her 2017 fall wedding.

These unique cape-inspired outfits, continue to metamorphose through an evolution of designs, weaves, and styles, created in different fabrics by renowned designers through to the 2018 fashion season.

These unique and stylish designs have adorned the backs of famous superstars such as the beautiful American singer and actress, Jennifer Lopez, the adorable actress, and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow, and Nigeria’s famous top Nollywood actress and movie producer, Genevieve Nnaji.

Royalty has not been left out of the trend as they have also taken a liking to these unique designs as seen on the stunning Duchess of Sussex, and retired American actress Meghan Markle, and the regal Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

These stunning women have rocked these designs, leaving different fashion statements in their wake. Royalty, professional women, entrepreneurs, socialites, entertainers, and of course, working girls like me all have a one or a couple cape inspired outfits in added to their wardrobe.

There is no doubt that just like jumpsuits have become an irreplaceable constant in women’s wardrobes, these designs are here to stay.

I own a couple, tailored in different designs, just like some of my fashion loving friends; and  when I come across a fashion trend that is fast becoming a classic, I like to know where it originated from. So, I did some research, and here’s what I found.

First of all, a cape is a sleeveless outer garment, which drapes the wearer’s back, arms, and chest, and fastens at the neck. Familiar right? Well, it was a common fashion in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and it has since then, had periodic returns to fashion.

In nineteenth-century Europe, the Roman Catholic clergy wore a type of cape known as a ferraiolo, which is worn for formal events outside a ritualistic context. It looks quite familiar if you ask me.

Caped overcoats were also popular for men during the Victorian era, with some caped Ulsters featuring multiple layered capes, and the Inverness coat (both formal evening and working day variants). We just tweaked it up a little bit, and it sure looks stunning on women.

There have also been several modifications to this beautiful classic, so if you are getting ready for a chic lit outing, a business meeting, a flash party or an evening on the red carpet event, there is definitely a cape-inspired outfit to go with.

Dress the way you want to be addressed right? Well, that’s what we are doing.

Women are Afterall the Real superheroes, why not look the part?

 

By Boma Benjy Iwuoha

Several years ago, we could say that there was a huge career gap between the genders all over the world. More women were involved in caregiving roles, family functions, and specific jobs which were considered suitable for women (because of the deeply rooted feminine features, and ability to multi-task within somewhat stress-free subtleties) such as teaching, nursing, and catering. Women were regarded as the “weaker sex” as they were generally considered incapable of keeping up with roles that involved security, physical strength and might, and an all-around mental/emotional stability.

The men, on the other hand, were seen as protectors, leaders, and builder who in most cases, have things figured out. This notion was born out of a close study of natural occurrences over time and not particularly because a certain category of the individual was selected to be marginalized. A meta-analysis concluded that men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people.

In the past in developing continents like Africa and Asia, customs and traditions dictated the roles of each member of the society. For instance, in rural African communities where communal living was the structure upon which they were built, girls were groomed to be home keepers and in order to avoid distractions, they weren’t sent to school. At that time, the only medals a woman could get revolved around being responsible through marriage, being a good home keeper (which included the proper training of her girl children), and the act of submission as a wife. Short of these, she was limited in vision not because she couldn’t dream big dreams, but rather because she didn’t even know what to dream about. Her society had made her short-sighted to the possibilities of career paths.

It was not the men that limited her by relegating her to the background and seizing choice jobs in exotic places. No! it was cultural norms passed down from one generation to the next. The custodians of these norms didn’t know any better. They saw a weaker sex and not the strength capable of causing socioeconomic development across nations of the world.

An article by Rebecca Onion titled “Unclaimed Treasures of Science “, reveals that as far back as the Cold War, there were already women in STEM in the developed countries. The official government line during the Cold War was: STEM careers for everyone! But as historians Margaret Rossiter and Sevan Terzian have pointed out, that push for science, technology, engineering, and math conflicted with gender norms and discriminatory institutional practices, resulting in a confusing set of mixed messages for women and girls. A book by historian Laura Micheletti Puaca titled “Searching for Scientific Womanpower: Technocratic Feminism and the Politics of National Security, 1940-1980 buttresses this point. Puaca wrote about female scientists, engineers, and educators who used innovative tactics to help women succeed in STEM, long before second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and the 1970s made issues of employment equity and stereotyping part of the national conversation.

According to the historian, World War II gave women their starting point. During the war, demands for more of what was often called “scientific manpower” and a shortage of civilian male workers prompted government and industry to start programs to train women in science and engineering. But when men returned from the service, women’s status in STEM fields worsened. The GI Bill sent a flood of male students to American universities, and opportunities—both for women who had gotten quick wartime training and for more established female scientists—dried up.

Importance of having women in STEM

It goes without saying that it has become a necessity to have more women in the STEM fields with the rush of digitalization consuming the world. The coming years will see massive changes in all sectors of the economy and nations of the world need to be prepared for this surge. Women constitute up to half of the world’s population, they are ready to be involved in developmental activities and should be put to good use. In addition, STEM-related organizations and groups must be commended for their relentless efforts towards encouraging a greater participation of women and girls in STEM fields and activities.

The way forward

Despite the successes already recorded regarding women participation in STEM activities, there is a lot of work to be done.

Mentors: There is the need for a greater support and encouragement from mentor figures. This will go a long way in women’s decisions of whether or not to continue pursuing a career in their discipline.

This may be particularly true for younger individuals who may face many obstacles early in their careers. Since these younger individuals often look to those who are more established in their discipline for help and guidance, the responsiveness and helpfulness of potential mentors are incredibly important.

Cultural Exchange: Another way to spike up the number of women in STEM is through Cultural exchanges.

It is true that some tribes and races have cultural barriers which may affect their decisions, cultural exchange programmes should be incorporated in those systems to enlighten such communities on the benefits of having women who are self-reliant.

By: Eruke Ojuederie

Examining the life of a Woman and her journey in S.T.E.M, you will find that almost everything she ever did from the stone age till date has had some elements of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which in today’s world is referred to as S.T.E.M.

Now, when we think about S.T.E.M and related jobs, we envision Physicists, Aeronautic Engineers, Software Developers, Biotechnologist, Medical Doctors and the likes. We tend to see more men in these fields and it is only natural to assume that men have always dominated these fields. This is not completely true, women have always been in the S.T.E.M field from the beginning of time, however, their contributions have not been adequately recognized or commended. Some may argue that this lack of appreciation may have contributed to the decline in the number of girls interested in S.T.E.M fields.

In this edition, we are looking at certain factors that make up the S.T.E.M disciplines and how much women have contributed to them over the years.

Let’s take a closer look at the genesis of machinery, which we identify as “technology” today, and the invention of some household products; we would find that long before we had modern-day science to create new and easier methods of performing household chores and activities, women had always performed all these activities without the use of technology.  Women washed, cooked, cared for the daily health needs of their family, devised means to preserve foods etc.

Women changed the world through S.T.E.M in areas like:

Research: Many simple things that have been modified today for daily use, were as a result of women’s discoveries, for example, researchers from the ACI, while describing the origin of soaps, state that women found that a slippery mixture of melted animal fat (or tallow), washed down from Mount Sapo (sapo: the name from which the name soap is derived), the mountain where animals were sacrificed, made their wash much cleaner without much effort, this led to the discovery and manufacture of soap. Maybe we owe the amazing feel of clean fresh washed clothes to women.

Technology: Have you ever wondered whom to thank when you’re getting your coffeemaker ready for your first cup of the day? Melitta Bentz was a German Housewife and entrepreneur who invented the coffee filter in 1908. Bentz modified the old tedious method of coffee brewing to a new method. She received a patent for her coffee filter system in 1908 and founded a business that still exists today.

Looking further into how certain tasks were achieved in the past, you would see that there was quite a very strong influence of the women community in how things were done.

Women such as Ellen Eglin an African-American who during the 1800’s invented a clothes wringer, which started the mechanization of the uncomfortable but predominant method of hand washing. Her invention would be further modified as washing machines today.

Eglin sold her patent to a “white person interested in manufacturing the product” for $18. The buyer went on to reap considerable financial awards, while Eglin, disadvantaged in colour and gender, spent her life making a living as a housekeeper and a government clerk.

Going back to the past, and women’s’ contributions to the S.T.E.M field, let’s take a look at the subject of water purification. A scientific process, pioneered by a woman Hypatia.

Chemistry: Hypatia lived in Alexandria Egypt from 350–370 died 415 AD; she was a Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. She taught philosophy and astronomy and is recorded as the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well documented. Hypatia was one of the scientific pioneers that introduced the distillation of water which has now become a common activity in every household. Easy as it now seems, it was considered a scientific exploit meant to make a substance purer than its original state. A process made possible by the contributions of a woman, and not many people have heard of her.

In tackling this issue of how much influence or participation women had in S.T.E.M in the past, it can also be viewed be from a very unconventional point of view. Take Alchemy, (defined by the urban dictionary as a form of chemistry before the periodic table, and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance which was aimed at transmutation of the base metals into gold) – some called it magic.  During the time of the alchemist, women had far more reputable standing especially in the depth of their research when compared to men in the field of alchemy. Something their male colleagues did not particularly like.

A good example of such a woman is Marie le Jars de Gournay, who was not allowed to receive the same education in science as her brothers. Blessed with an inquisitive mind, she was able to teach herself Latin and later went on to edit academic manuscripts. As a fully-grown woman and with all the knowledge she had acquired, she became the first female mineralogist and mining engineer.

She later moved to Paris, where she tried her hands at alchemy and published books expressing her views on how women were very much capable of creating a career for themselves in science-related fields like men. During her practice of alchemy, in a time when people still believed in magical creatures and witchcraft. Marie who was very proud of her work ignored the advice of people who cautioned her to stay away from mining. Her bold refusal to give up her practice had her accused of witchcraft and imprisoned, she died in jail at age eighty (80). How dare she thrive in a ‘Man’s’ field, poor Marie.

Isabelle Cortese is another remarkable Alchemist who lived during the sixteenth century in Italy. She chronicled her discoveries in her book titled “The Secrets of Signora Isabella Cortese”. Among her discoveries include; practical methods of perfume production; the production of essential oils and methods of melting metals to make durable jewellery. Most of her works are still in use today.

Innovation: In the area of manufacturing, we have Margaret E. Knight, she was born February 1838, in York, Maine. Armed with only a basic education, she started as a mill worker at age 12. Witnessing an accident at the mill, where a worker was stabbed by a steel-tipped shuttle from a loom, Knight was prompted to invent a safety device for the loom – Her first invention. A device which was later adopted by other mills in Manchester. Several years later, Knight moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where she was hired by the Columbia Paper Bag Company; here she invented a machine that folds and glues paper to form the flat-bottomed brown paper bags familiar to shoppers today.

While Knight was still working to perfect the processing machinery, Charles F Annan, a would-be-inventor of dubious morality, tried to bully her out of her hard work, stealing her design, and patenting the device. Knight filed a successful patent interference lawsuit and in 1871, and she was awarded the patent. Before her death, Knight held over 20 patents and a decoration by Queen Victoria.  At the time of her death in 1914, an obituary described her as a “Woman Edison” A name which many people will come to remember her by. Somewhat dispiriting, to think that she needed a reference to male inventor for the value of her work to be understood?

Katharine Burr Blodgett is another remarkable woman, an American physicist, and chemist known for her work on surface chemistry. Blodgett contributed important research to military needs. Her work in chemistry resulted in her most influential invention: non-reflective glass. Her non-reflective glass is today, an essential for eyeglasses, car windshields, and computer screens. She was a pioneer in several respects, but how many know about her?

The list of women that have made remarkable contributions to various branches of S.T.E.M remain unending, however, the questions remain “What happened?”, “Where did it all change?”. Women had always been in the S.T.E.M field, what held them back to create the gap?

We can see that there was quite a large number of women who were genuinely interested in this field of study, but over time the number began to dwindle. Taking into consideration, the environmental, societal and mental factors that have come into play between then and now, we can begin to understand why women and girls are slowly losing interest in the S.T.E.M. community.

Some of the reasons include: They were not encouraged; they were held back by pressures; their efforts were sabotaged, and they are oftentimes not acknowledged for their contributions.

The most common is lack of Encouragement. Most cultures in the world have given a high level of dominance to the male-folks when it comes to studying S.T.E.M related courses. It is no new issue that some countries see the place of the woman solely in a domestic light. Little wonder girls who study in all girl’s schools tend to be more interested in the S.T.E.M field, and oftentimes outperform their co-ed counterparts. Psychologists found they have less discouragement and little or no negative comparison which their co-ed counterparts are regularly faced with.

What do we do?

Create an “I Can Do It” Atmosphere. In order to excite the minds young girls into studying S.T.E.M related courses, they need to be exposed to the right atmosphere. Vanessa Vakharia who runs The Math Guru science and math studio noted that one of the reasons for the low number of girls in science, is simple; many girls have come to believe that they do not have what it takes to be in S.T.E.M. She advises that incorporating a more psychological and critical means of approach would benefit the girls, especially while they are still trying to figure out who they are.  

Mentors and Role Models for Girls in S.T.E.M. The place of role models cannot be overemphasized when it comes to the girl child development, this cuts across all areas, education, workforce etc. Increasing access to S.T.E.M Mentors (women who have excelled in these fields) for the young girls, would go a long way toward building their self-confidence. Interaction with S.T.E.M mentors would serve as a confidence booster, and as a driving force towards achieving their goals.

Condition their minds. It’s quite common knowledge parents and guardians play an important role in preparing their children psychologically towards their career path. They can do this in various ways; for instance, introducing a variety of television programs that can help them identify what their kids are interested in – e.g. kids may show interest in S.T.E.M inclined programs like Doc McStuffins or Dexter’s Laboratory, which gives you an idea of where best to channel their energy

Other areas include; S.T.E.M inclined books, toys, fun activities like visiting the aquarium; that way you will awaken the marine biologist in them. You can also encourage your girls to participate in their school’s science exhibitions e.t.c.

While early school years can contribute to developing an interest in S.T.E.M in girls, parents can also work towards encouraging their kids with the littlest things in their surroundings. A little nudge once in a while can help create that enthusiasm to study.

S.T.E.M is a very broad and interesting study area and having more women interested in it will definitely be better for the world.

With the various drives going on in Africa to reduce the number of people infected and living with HIV/AIDS, the Consortium of Leadership & Gender Experts (CLGE] has been set up to bridge the gender discriminations that exists on the continent. In an exclusive interview with Amazons Watch Magazine, Dr Tinaye tells us more about the future of Africa and what the plans for PLWHA are on the continent. Excerpts:

  1. Our findings reveal that you have put in over twenty years in the academia and social development in the areas of education, health – HIV/AIDS, & gender. Kindly tell about yourself and your career in these fields.

I am, first and foremost a nurse, at heart and by training but, I was never a clinical nurse! I went in as a Clinical Instructor/Student Fellow upon nursing training completion. After working for just over a year I went for further studies to read for a Bachelors’ Degree, Education at the University. Later, I obtained a Master of Science, Midwifery and Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology) Degrees.  I lectured health professionals – Midwives – over a 15-year period.  During this tenure, I rose through the academic ladder within a Public Tertiary Institution to the highest rank of Senior Lecturer and doubled as Program Coordinator for the program. I cherish those years since Midwifery is close to my heart. Back then, job satisfaction came from observing starry faced Midwifery novices turning into seasoned dexterous professionals capable of managing expectant women through the delivery of live and healthy bundles of joy! Many of my former students continue to humble me by expressing gratitude for setting them up a career advancement pathway every time we meet! As I also proved adept at administration, I swiftly progressed in my career to management level with the admiration of my peers and gratification of my employer. All this achievement came with hard work, humility and by Grace!

Notwithstanding this rather picturesque experience, professional agitation for better and bigger calls knocked at my door. This was in the form of organizational politicking and a nagging feeling to move on to other agendas. I was always passionate about making something out of myself by giving towards bettering other peoples’ lives. So, I joined international NGOs to do development projects addressing topical health issues of the day. In the early 2000s, HIV was the biggest deal. In 2002, together with the Country Director and I as Country Deputy Director set up a Botswana subsidiary of PSG-South Africa known as Matshelo Community Development Association (MCDA), to run an HIV Prevention Program for 11 SADC countries underfunding that was previously managed by the University of Botswana- Center for Continuing Education. The subsidiary CBO exists up to date.  The project was a broad-based project and aimed at addressing foundational and structural barriers to HIV prevention. It adopted participatory educational and outreach approaches through the use of peer education techniques and targeted vulnerable and hard to reach community groups (including youth particularly girls, out of school youth, unemployed women and sex workers among others). It was a multi-faceted project with capacity building of core groups to cascade skills and knowledge to peers in their communities serving as the main instrument for operating at scale to attain a felt impact. In Botswana, we worked in 16 sites along the railway line and border town communities. It was a marvellous project that allowed African countries to share experiences on the trajectory of HIV and AIDS; research engagements and bring results from various parts of the sub-continent together creating holistic telling loops about the scourge and; create a momentous feeling for regional clusters to catch up or do better amidst a sense of camaraderie and oneness!

With lessons from MCDA work, regional and international exchanges, I set up a project as Country Director for Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs in Botswana. The project, Gender Initiative on Girls’ Vulnerability, simply known as GGI for Go! Girls Initiative aimed at reducing girls’ vulnerability through a multi-dimensional approach embracing all groups of people that impact girls’ HIV status. It included intervention research- pre-assessments, designing action packages using research findings and developing relevant materials for the programs, working with communities to act and reviewing results of the action. I couldn’t benefit any better from a project and I regard it as the epitome of my career! The pleasure of working with mothers, girls and boys, adult men and women in their communities, tribal authorities, extension workers, government officials (middle supervisors) and policymakers was immeasurable.  The enthusiasm and commitment to do something about their life situation and promote the safety of the girl child were palpable across communities. The greatest lesson for me was how lopsided our common top-down public planning undermines the very outcomes for which we strive! I thought a little nudge in the right direction for inclusivity and full participation of all towards solving social and development challenges can tip the scales positively big time. This was a turning point for me which explains my inspiration to found CLGE – a vehicle for transforming lives for the better!

Working for the UNDP, Botswana felt like a final stopover in my employment career for advisory/policy formulation and advocacy purposes. Given the wealth of lessons from the amazing organizations I partook in, surely, I wasn’t short of contributions. As Manager for the Country Office Health, HIV and Gender Programme, I smoothly contributed to the formulation, review and design of policies and guidelines working alongside government institutions. Some strategic formulations include; the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan and its implementation tools, Gender and Development Policy and needs assessment studies for various policy reforms e.g. family policy, gender mainstreaming in various policies etc. I enjoyed engagement in different dialogue platforms for many social and development work.

Familiarity with the UN system was an eye opener about the institutionalization of power and how national/regional/international efforts sidetrack the man on the ground despite the good intentions. Indication – there are gaps that require to be filled to complete the circuit by reaching out to where it matters most – grassroots!

  1. Botswana has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world with latest reports estimating it to be around 17.6% of the general population, 24% for 15 years and above age group, and 48.9% of women aged 30-34 years, while 33.3% of pregnant ones are HIV positive. What is your take on the prevalence of HIV/AIDs in Botswana?

Actually, figures were slightly adjusted according to the results of the last Botswana AIDS Impact Survey IV of 2013. Botswana has moved to third place after Lesotho and Swaziland. Prevalence now stands at 16.9%. Figures may not indicate a drastic improvement but, the downward trend is a promising sign. However, prevalence remains extremely high and it is expected to remain so for quite some time. To clarify, national prevalence shows how widespread the infection is in the country, i.e. the proportion of infected individuals to the population size. Given Botswana’s high infection rates in earlier years, it will take time to have more people in the population who are free of infection. These individuals are expected to come from uninfected newborn babies who will grow up into older population groups without being infected. Also, older people (children, youth and adults) who will remain uninfected should increase the size of the group of those people who remain free of infection in the population. I am happy to say we see signs that this picture is emerging. One good reason for this is the drop in the incidence rate (2.47 in 2013 from 2.9 in 2008). Incidence is the speed at which new cases occur over a period of time.  But, Botswana’s challenge is to step up behaviour change efforts by helping individuals to become stronger in adopting safety measures. These measures should not be those highly reliant on biomedical techniques like PMTCT, which in our case contributed much to fall in incidence. We should plan of launching our HIV free infants into a childhood and youth space where they can be bold and resilient to avoid infection at all costs as they approach the riskiest years of their lives (adolescence and the childbearing period).  These periods cover years that individuals are most sexually active. Serious dangers of HIV spread during the periods are associated with socio-cultural and gender inequalities and discrimination that increases risks for girls, women and inversely affects everyone. So, Botswana should implement combination prevention as soon as yesterday to reduce HIV incidence across a wide spectrum of population age groups resulting in much prevalence reduction. Such prevention measures require deliberate and coordinated empowerment of women, girls, men and boys towards a common vision, in addition to biomedical techniques

  1. Kindly tell us about your work and efforts in the fights against HIV/AIDS.

I am a people person who likes helping out all the time. So, I believe my work against HIV/AIDS began well before I started working on formal HIV related projects through my efforts as community worker towards all those around me – family, co-workers and social groups. I was always concerned about the consequences of behaviour on one’s life and was ready with a word of encouragement or counsel to support pro-life behaviour with tangible and sustainable benefits. This life outlook drifted me from the training of health professionals towards development projects. I started off as Country Deputy Director for Botswana in a regional HIV Prevention Program run for 11 SADC countries back in 2001 by Project Support Group (PSG) – a South African based NGO. We worked with universities on intervention research projects towards prevention – University of Botswana- Center for Continuing Education, University of Zimbabwe and the University of Oslo- Center for Anthropology. We also worked with vulnerable groups such as girls, out of school and unemployed youth, and women in communities to build their capacity and improve livelihoods. Then, I was Country Director for Botswana in a Johns Hopkins University –Center for Communications Programs project known as the Gender Initiative on Girls’ Vulnerability in three SADC countries – Botswana, Malawi & Mozambique. I was directing research activities for Botswana, planning program activities and overseeing all program activities in communities to complement regional project efforts. The focus was still on capacity building with an evidence base from the research findings to reduce girls’ vulnerability to HIV infection. I derived the greatest satisfaction out of my work life from these years as I could relate the value of academic work to life realities and at the same time bring worthy experiences to the learning table for dialogue and investigation. I regard this link as one of the biggest missing factors between education and its role in developing lives. Still in development work, I then worked for UNDP heading their Health/HIV and Gender Program. At this level my work focused on advisory services and policy formulation at national level. Tapping from my previous work experience I finally set up the Consortium of Leadership & Gender Experts [CLGE], a social enterprise that seeks to build leadership capacity for all to transform lives by addressing barriers such as discriminatory practices like gender, social exclusion by class/status etc. I believe the most lethal weapon for prevention of HIV transmission is the capacity to take charge of one’s life and avoid likely pitfalls that compromise individuals’ resilience and independence e.g. socio-cultural and gender pressures.  I believe that taking charge of self is a leadership function! 

  1. Findings reveal that gender discrimination continues to undermine efforts to ensure education for all, while over 80 per cent of children are in school in Botswana. Violence against women and girls, as well as problems with girls’ retention, continue to plague the school system. What are your thoughts on these and how do you think the society can address these challenges?

Challenges in the school system are only but an iceberg of a much wider social problem that plagues girls and women. Problems faced by girls at school are true signs of institutionalized social problems by gender lines. Problems in schools stand out because of the larger pool of girls in the same space over a period of time. But, imagine that individuals, girls and women are suffering the same fate silently in their various corners. Although everyone agrees that acts of violence and discrimination should be stopped, on a social level, tokenism exists. What I mean is that people believe that this is how society is and so, such acts should be expected – foundational misconceptions! It is important to instigate action for social transformation of both men and women at all levels – individual, peer networks, institutions and wider society.  I believe the key to transformation is the creation of a shared vision in which both men and women are winners and beneficiaries with a vested interest in the change. As it is now, the gender equality drive appears to be characterized by opposing interests. We can never win, that way!  

  1. How do you balance your family and career obligations?

I don’t cry for balance. I give thanks for the opportunity to do what I need to do when I do it! And still, give thanks for relaxation windows! That is what life is about. Balance comes because you are able to do what you like best, anywhere! My family is priority number one because relationships matter most to me. But, I am most pleasant and meaningful to them when I contribute at best towards my life course…. i.e. doing and saying that which brings a smile to everyone, fighting for fairness and justice for ALL. I am a grandmother of a lovely young girl. While I have always felt so much love for our son and daughter, I never felt so much fulfilment and a sense of extension into infinity until my granddaughter was born. It is such an amazing feeling…a blissful feeling of accomplishment that you cannot ascribe to any effort of yours! Although my husband hasn’t expressed it, I have always caught a glimpse of that contented smile on him when he watches the girl during her funny moments! The other thought that carries me through tough times is the love from mum and dad, and the feeling of belonging I developed growing up with my sisters.    

  1. What’s the best way for the readers of Amazons Watch Magazine to connect with you (You can include links to your social networks and websites)

www.clgebw.org

QUOTE: “I believe the most lethal weapon for prevention of HIV transmission is the capacity to take charge of one’s life and avoid likely pitfalls that compromise individuals’ resilience and independence.”