Happy Belated International Women’s Day!

Erin, Cheryl & Sheila
Erin, Cheryl & Sheila

International Women’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year! This year was no exception. Although the events that  I attended were held on Saturday, March 9 instead of Friday, March 8th it was no less of a celebration. As you can see from the picture above I also spent the day in the company of women who are both my friends and whom I admire very much!

The event that we participated in was organized by BONELA, The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS, which is a non-governmental organisation committed to integrating an ethical, legal and human rights approach into Botswana’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The focus of this year’s event was an International Celebration of Sex Workers Rights Day and International Women’s Day.

The objective of the event was to raise public awareness on issues that affect women who engage in commercial sex work and those who are involved in same sex relationships, ultimately empowering women on their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. The event also promoted access to justice and healthy lifestyle among the vulnerable groups including HIV and STI Prevention. Out of all the International Women’s Day events that I had to choose from attending, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the one I wanted to celebrate.

The day began with a march at 6:00 am and followed with a full slate of activities up to about 1:00 pm. The main activities took place in a tent at Main Mall in the centre of Gaborone. Every one of the human rights events that I have attended since arriving in Gabs almost six months ago, which has been held in a tent at Main Mall has exceeded my expectations. Yesterday’s event was no different. The tent was packed with both women and men! There was music galore, dramatic performances by incredibly talented artists, moving and motivating speakers and a sense of celebration and unity which quite frankly I have never felt at similar events back home in Canada.

My friend Erin, who role in the Maatla Project is a combination of ODA (Organizational Development Advisor) and Gender Advocate performed during the event. She sang one of her own songs honouring women’s day and read/sang the following poem:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

All in all it was a perfect day!

Water Issues!

As the North American Continent moves towards Spring, those of us on the other side of world are heading into Autumn. The days are definitely getting shorter and the nights cooler.

Jetske has been tormenting me for two weeks that she will be closing up the pool very soon. Yesterday for the first time I actually got chilly by staying in the pool too long and the sun was disappearing so I can now see her point. However, I don’t know what I will do with my calming dips in the pool.

The rainy season is almost over….I haven’t even had the time to do another rain dance although Tabuche instructed me that I needed to do one every day! With the end of rainy season, comes the end of the possibility of the end to the drought we are currently experiencing.

Yesterday the Water Utilities Corporation delivered the following notice to residents:

The Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) would like to inform residents of Gaborone City, and surrounding areas (Mochudi, Gabane, Kumakwane, Mogoditshane, Tlokweng, Lobatse) and their surrounding areas that it is currently experiencing water supply challenges. Due to this, they will experience low pressure to no water at all indefinitely. 

Residents are advised to wisely use the little available water. 

So there you have it – on going power issues, no internet connection at my office for the past 7 days, and now limited or no water. Would I change coming here, definitely not! But the bush is looking more and more appealing every day!



“Gabs” – Disspelling Myth #1

The concept for today’s blog entry came from a conversation with someone yesterday who was horrified to learn that I was drinking tap water here in Gabs. While his concern, I am sure was for my personal health and safety, during his rant I realized that those of you back in Canada really do have some preconceived myths about Africa.

Back when I was a teenager my career aspiration for a while was to be a journalist living in Africa. My intent was not to be a Canadian coming here to report on the underdeveloped world but instead to tell the African side of the story. I have now realized that this blog allows me to fulfil that dream as well. So here we go:

Gabs is an incredible capital city. For all of those of you who have been following my journey and trolling the internet to have a better idea of where I was headed off too, you no doubt have built up a picture in your minds of what and how Gabs (Gaborone) looks like. It is a city unlike anywhere I have ever been. It is not an old city – we just celebrated independence day this weekend and in fact the city is one year younger than I am as it was established in 1966.

Yes, there are some modern buildings with more being built all the time. Yet none of them are really highrises. Perhaps the tallest would be 8 to 12 floors maximum. On average the ones that I have seen are about 6 floors high. Generally it is a clean, safe city that is spreading outwards. To my untrained eye it feels like a city of villages rather than an urban center. Although according to local websites and offering there is a definite city centre which is based around the train station and the government enclave (remember my two days at the Ministry of Immigration) which is located in what is called Kharma Crescent – how poetic is that given my experience at Immigration??

What further distinguishes Gabs is that there is no single shopping district, rather there are numerous shopping malls dotted all over the city with no real prominent downtown area. Apparently, Gaborone’s nomenclature confuses most new arrivals. Different parts of town are called Blocks, Extensions, Phases etc. and there can be multiple names for the same place. Below is a rough guide:

  •    The Extensions – to the east of the railway line radiating out from the Government Enclave. Extensions 9 and 11 are probably the wealthiest parts of Gaborone. Extension 15, out near Riverwalk Mall is known as ‘the Village’
  • Gabs West – the inner blocks to the west of the railway line, inside the Western Bypass. Gabs West is sub-divided into Phases 1, 2, 4 and industrial. I live in Phase 4.
  •    The Blocks – to the west of the railway line, outside the Western Bypass. The blocks number 5 – 10 running south to north (although Block 9 is an outlier being the southern most of the blocks, and there is a Block 3 directly north of the downtown area). Some maps (inc Google Maps) label the Blocks as high numbered Extensions (eg Block 8 is made up of Extensions 35 & 36) but everyone will refer to an area by its Block number.
  •    The Central Business District refers to a patch of undeveloped land slap in the centre of the city that is only now (2012) being developed in to overly modern hotels and offices (inc the new Lansmore hotel)
  • Phakalane a new-build suburb 12km north of the centre of Gaborone – based around a golf estate – on the east side of the A1 Francistown road. South-west of Phakalane is the still to be developed Glen Valley
  • Gaborone North – a developing suburb out towards the airport to the west of Phakalane.
  • Broadhurst is an older suburb to the northeast of the centre. On the southern edge of Broadhurst are Partial and Maru-a-Pula
  • Tlokweng a poorer suburb to the east of the Notwane river.

And finally, to address his concerns, Gabs unlike some of the other places in Botswana has a very healthy sewer and water system. The Gaborone Water Utilities Corporation http://www.wuc.bw/index.php ensures that I have safe drinking water based on the World Health Organisations Drinking Water Quality Drinking Guidelines. Yes, before you ask, this corporation is wholly owned by the Botswana Government. It was established in 1970 by an Act of Parliament with a mandate to the supply and distribution of water. Sewage is taken care of by Gaborone City Council Sewerage Treatment Plant.

I did have wonderful pictures to show you of what the housing looked liked but with my camera not set properly I now have to retake them before I can upload. I hope that everyone has a great day!