In a previous post, I discussed the challenges faced by the San – an indigenous minority group in Botswana. These challenges include societal discrimination, extreme poverty and the rapid erosion of traditional San culture. In my work, I am always advocating for women to be leaders and decision makers in their societies. I would like to highlight the dedication and leadership of one San woman, Namaswe Kikonyane, who is working to improve the conditions of San communities across Botswana. She is doing this through the education and empowerment of San women.
Namaswe was born and raised in the small San settlement of Metsimantle. She is proud to be San and is passionate about standing up for the rights of her people. “It is very important for me to be an independent and empowered San women,” Namaswe explained. “We are a minority tribe in Botswana and I want to show people that we also have a voice. I want to be that voice for my community.”
Today, Namaswe is the coordinator of Gantsi Craft – a non-governmental organization established to empower the San and preserve their culture through the sale of their traditional craft products. Craft production has always been a central part of San culture. Many San women, due to lack of employment opportunities elsewhere, depend on the sales of their craft products as the main source of income for their families.
With Gantsi Craft, Namaswe leads training workshops with women craft producers in San settlements across Botswana. Her role as coordinator of Gantsi Craft is a sign for women in the settlements that “it is not all about men to be leaders, we are leaders too.”
At these workshops, the women participate in interactive discussions on natural resource management, business management, gender equality and health issues including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Namaswe explained, “I am fighting and working hard everyday to educate the women in these communities. I want the women to know the rights they have.”
Efforts by women around the world to better the lives of their communities must be recognized and supported. It is because of the dedication of women like this and I am driven to continue my work in the education and empowerment of women.