Letsema Project - Women In Farming

“Don’t be too quick to undermine yourself’’ – Botshelo Kgatisiwe’s influence in politics and farming

Ina lebe seromo, le a roma

Setswana proverb

The proverb Ina lebe seromo, le a roma in Setswana speaks to the power behind a name. In the many cultures found in Botswana, there is a belief towards the destiny and purpose behind names given to people. This speaks towards the depth of Botshelo Kgathiswe’s first name, meaning life. Botshelo has a powerful talent of using social skills to breathe life into projects, businesses and opportunities.

Growing up in Molepolole, Botshelo didn’t complete her full high school studies, she has a  junior level certificate (form 3) and worked in Chem Chemicals and Sefalana. Six years into working in Sefalana, she found interest in party politics. Having a cousin in politics led to her attending political meetings, further birthing a love in political movements. Through her passion , she started working in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as a branch secretary in her community, and was further nominated as a councillor in her town, Molepolole. After her 5 year tenure, she moved to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), contested for elections in 2014 and lost.

Two years later, Botshelo applied for the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program under the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. She collaborated with another woman in her area and created a proposal for livestock farming (primarily goats). After they received funding, she needed access to land. With knowledge that land access can be granted by the land board if you are government funded, and a letter proving funding is presented, she received a 3 hectare commercial lot in the outskirts of Molepolole.

 

Shortly into her business, a jackal killed 16 of her goats, needing her to have a home within the the funding does not provide for a herdboy. However, the experience led her to attending courses at  the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAAN). She not only learnt how to increase security of her livestock, but additionally learnt about the intricacies of healthcare of different livestock.She enjoys small livestock farming because in her view, they are cost efficient and have a larger direct market.Additionally, when granted a schedule, they become easier to manage (particularly when feeding animals)

 

What’s most inspiring about Botshelo is her passion for women empowerment and collaboration, particularly in political movements and societal unity. While she is currently the national organizing secretary of the Alliance for Progressives (AP),  Botshelo counsels and helps mobilize resources for different women living in Molepolole who are experiencing different challenges. For example, a family had their house burn down. Through social media groups and networks, she helped mobilize resources and further aided in counselling to help them rebuild their lives. She had also organize a leisure group which has South African and Batswana women where people speak on business issues and engage in knowledge sharing.  Additionally, she has helped seven youth in her area to write proposals and taught them basic accounting skills. These youth are in milling, livestock farming and even tailor making.

 

Essentially, Botshelo enjoys working with women and assisting young people.Through her experience, she has seen that women underestimate their potential, and in turn don’t support each other in politics. The lack of internal solidarity has women losing focus in political work and find themselves swayed into romantic relationships that take them away from their job. She encourages women to enter politics, particularly through research first, in understanding political processes. They can start research through basic community work, including different programs such as VDC, being more hands on in community engagement.  

She encourages women not to give up on life. To have tenacity and fight to access their dreams, especially when it gets difficult. “We shouldn’t be too quick to marry, and undermine ourselves,” she says, adding that  women should access any programs available from government, and be open to asking for assistance.