The African Women Leaders Academy (TAWLA) is a Botswana based organisation that focuses leadership and self-esteem training to young women. During this years 16 days of activism, TAWLA hosted a dialogue conference that focuses on the cores of gender based violence (GBV) and how we as a society can address it.
We met up with the founder, Dr Mpho Gilika and engaged in a short conversation about GBV, how culture and religion play a role in our understanding of male and women and how her organization helps change the mindset of both young men and women.
Although the organization aims at mentorship and leadership training of young women, what role does it play in the male society to ensure gender equality?
Although the TAWLA’s main mandate is empowering the girl-child, since 2012 TAWLA’s programs included the boy-child. Our Tshipidi Workplace Mentoring Program, a program that TAWLA started in partnership with USAID, included 12 young men who were at that time doing form 4 and have recently graduated from high school. These young men are part of our leadership and mentoring program. Our leadership training focuses on gender equity rather than just on young women empowerment. We believe it is necessary to educate and empower both boys and girls.
In your opinion, do you believe that culture and religion play a role in countering gender equality – if so, what is the role played?
Both Culture and religion are dynamic, and both definitely have some contradictions to gender equality and equity. But that said, culture is part of us, it is what makes us Batswana, we just need to see what part of our culture is beneficial, and enhance and use it to our advantage, and get rid of those aspects of culture that are discriminating and disadvantaging to some groups of our society, such as women and children. With religion, I am really not sure, hey! Religion these days, I just don’t know. It is a subject that is very controversial, so I will leave it to the religious experts.
16 days of activism of gender violence focuses on mainly on the abuse of women and children, as celebrating women’s rights heroes – however, looking at the growing trends of women to men abuse, do you believe it is time to raise awareness on the abuse of men?
Although it seems as if the commemoration of 16 days of activism against violence on women and children focuses on women and children, it not only about women and children it is about all genders. We have now learnt that abuse is abuse, and it affects everybody, men included. And I believe that is how our country views gender based violence, gender is not about women, it is about men and women, boys and girls. So, really when we commemorate these 16 days of activism against gender based violence, we are remembering everybody who is affected by violence, either in their homes, in the streets, at school etc. regardless of whether they are men, women, boys, or girls. Women do abuse men, but the statistics show that women to men abuse is very low compared to men to women abuse. Gender based violence is mainly perpetrated by men to women and children, mostly the girl-child, and that is why it sometimes seems like GBV is all about women’s abuse.
As Dr. Gikila mentioned, GBV stems from more than men abusing women. It is human abusing human . It is important during this time to re-evaluate the mindset we have on how we relate to different genders on a physical, psychological, mental and emotional basis. Organisations such as TAWLA offer such assistance through platforms of dialogue – seeing that communication is the most effective mean of creating change. If you would like to join TAWLA or work with the association, contact them on +267 3105376 or visit them on Facebook or Twitter.