Remarks by the UN Botswana Resident Coordinator,Anders Pedersen during the launch of the United Nations Joint Programmes on Gender Based Violence and Gender Mainstreaming in Gaborone

Jul 31, 2014

On behalf of the UN family in Botswana, I would like to welcome you all to this launch of the United Nations in Botswana Joint Programmes on Gender Based Violence and Gender Mainstreaming.

This is an important day for the UN in Botswana. And it all started by a visit to New York by you, Hon. Minister. Let me explain. In March 2013 Minister Batshu was in New York as the representative of Botswana to CSW, the Commission on the Status of Women, as many of you know the annual UN event on gender. That in itself was highly commendable. But not only that. In conjunction with the visit the Minister met upon his request with a number of senior UN officials, incl. the Executive Director of UN Women, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and the Regional Director for Africa at UNDP. His request was simple. The GoB would like to seek the support of the United Nations in the fight against Gender Based Violence, the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. And this is important, that is, the expressed commitment by the Government of Botswana to step up its fight against GBV and the empowerment of women and explicitly asking for the support of the UN.

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is critically important for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is a question of rights, of human rights, of non-discrimination. But secondly, and equally important, it is about development. To put it simply, only by engaging all women fully in the development efforts Botswana as any other country will be able to reach its full potential, in the case of Botswana, to move from an Upper Middle Income Country to a High Income Country, fighting poverty, inequalities and promoting equity. 

You can talk about gender equality in Botswana in a variety of ways. We can look at statistics and gender indicators, incl. the HDR presented here in Gaborone yesterday. We can look at the number of female members of parliament. We can also look at the number of senior women civil servants. We can look at the legal status of women to own and inherit land. 

But in my view, we speak too much about women as a vulnerable group, a group that need special attention. In some cases this is correct. But this said, I believe we much shift focus, change approach. Targeted interventions in favour of women and groups of women are in some cases necessary, no doubt about that. But most important, in my view, is to engage women in their own right as development agents, as key contributors to all development efforts. We have to fully recognize the role of women in development and give it the attention it deserves. 

Because there is a very interesting relationship between poverty eradication, fighting HIV/Aids and empowering women. The reality is that there will be no poverty eradication without fighting HIV, no empowerment of women without fighting poverty and HIV, and neither poverty eradication nor zero new infections without empowering women. This is a fact that we have to keep in mind.

Some may not necessarily think about Gender Based Violence as a human rights issue – but it is! GBV is a violation of several of the most fundamental rights as expressed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which stipulates that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person". This right is equally important in the family and in the home as between the individual and the State. Human rights are about non-discrimination. GBV is in many cases effectively keeping women away from participating fully in society and in the labour market, from expressing themselves and from realizing their full potential. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay expresses it like this: 
"Violence against women is never "deserved" but simply and totally unacceptable. Eliminating violence against women necessarily encompasses measures to empower women to stand for their own rights, make decisions on their lives and participate fully in the life of their communities."

Last but not least, coming together not less than nine UN agencies on two specific programmes, is to be seen as an expression of our commitment and eagerness to work closely together with the Government and all other partners in support of development in Botswana. Over the last two years we have made significant progress in working together, building on our respective strengths, knowing that only by joint efforts we will be able to make a real and sustainable contribution to the country’s development efforts. And we know that this is what the Government expect of us. Thank you! 

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