Happy International Women's Day everybody!
I remember being a little girl and thinking how I'd hate to be a boy because everything was so limiting. Girls could wear dresses and trousers, while boys were trapped in trousers forever. Girls could cry but also fight. I was lucky because I was born when it was no longer acceptable to stop a girl from being anything she wanted to be. In the chaotic world of my childhood, growing up and getting married just didn't seem like a sensible plan for a life. Far too fragile and prone to wild emotions, so I was never the little girl dreaming of a white wedding and an even whiter picket fence. I wanted something a bit sturdier and in a more sensible colour.
I know my freedom of choice was won from the wars fought by the women who went before me, and I am forever thankful for that.
In Botswana, women are in a fairly good position as long as they have an income. Poor women here, like poor women everywhere, are vulnerable. They get in relationships with men and become trapped because of economics. Once trapped they are vulnerable to violence and other forms of domestic abuse. They are also unable to negotiate things such as condom use making them more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
In Botswana, abortion is illegal. Women are forced to go to unhygienic and untrained abortionists and, if they are found out, they are taken to prison. The prisons are full of women who had no choice. Again this burden falls on poor women. Women with money can go over the border to South Africa where abortion is legal and can be done in a clinic or hospital.
It is shocking how the issue is rarely discussed in the country. The missionaries were highly successful in Botswana and Christianity is rampant and nearly mandatorily assumed. As a long time member of Emang Basadi (a women's' rights NGO), I've been in discussions with some of the leading women's rights activists in this country and when abortion is brought up even they are vehemently against it. This saddens me.
Today as we think about the progress women have made, we should know too that the work continues. Until all women have unlimited choices, free of constraint of any kind, the struggle must continue.