Botswana is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries, home to just over 2 million people. But did you know that humans have lived there for more than 100,000 years? In Botswana’s famous Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, more than 4,500 paintings, ancient rock art, and caves document an incredible history of human settlement.
In Botswana’s northwest region, lush landscapes and abundant wildlife draw locals and tourists to the Okavango Delta, a scenic oasis in the Kalahari Desert. In recent years, the country’s nature preserves and growing tourism sector, in addition to mining and cattle, have greatly contributed to its successful economy—now one of the fastest-growing in the world.
On the world stage, Botswana is renowned for its strong democratic tradition. Since gaining independence in 1966, the country has experienced more than four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership and a consistent record of democratic elections.
This week, we’re celebrating all that makes Botswana special, including you and other members of the the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network! Keep reading to meet three individuals who educate others and advance individual rights, and learn why Botswana is this week’s #CountryoftheWeek!
Education on the Environment
For active YALI Network member Rethabile Konopo, “recycling, reducing, and re-using is as easy as A.B.C.”
That’s the message she shared with children on Earth Day at Joyland Preschool in Gaborone. Her event, “Celebrating Earth Day with Kids,” aimed to educate local youth about the importance of keeping the environment healthy. “Learning is easier through fun-filled activities,” she explains, “and children can pass their knowledge to friends and family members.”
Rethabile believes that inspiring the next generation and encouraging climate activism are important for the future of Botswana—a country that could, in the coming years, see drastic change due to a shifting climate. And Earth Day, Rethabile notes, provides the perfect starting point to educate others and raise awareness: “It’s a great way to conserve, cut down on your household bills, and implement change and responsibility for your kids.”
In addition to being a champion for the environment, Rethabile uses her YALI experience to support women in business. She recently organized a networking session for thirty female entrepreneurs who gathered to share their experiences. The session, entitled “Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs,” covered such topics as “Creating Access to Decent Work for Africa” and “Bridging the Poverty Gap.” Now, the group has formed a network of women working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8—sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth—and has given more women access to potential investors to grow their businesses.
Want to learn more about raising awareness and spurring action for the environment? Check out #YALIGoesGreen and YALI Online Courses such as Focus On: Climate Change to learn about all the steps you can take to help your community go green!
Advocating for People with Disabilities
Our next featured member, Betty Masego Rampana, comes from rural Mmathethe in Southeast Botswana. There, she’s collaborating with members of her church and community to empower and advocate for people with disabilities.
Betty has always had an interest in disability rights. After finishing a YALI Civic Leadership program through her Regional Leadership Center, she was inspired to take action. In July, she planned and organized a successful community day for people with special needs, in addition to a week-long campaign focused on educating her community about the challenges and concerns faced by people with disabilities. “The day’s main goal was to create opportunities for the hearing impaired, visually impaired, and those with special needs, and to ensure these individuals are treated equally,” explains Betty.
The event was a success, and gave rise to another exciting idea: to build a rehabilitation center in Mmathethe. “The Department of People with Disabilities asked my church to identify a plot of land where the Government of Botswana could construct a rehabilitation center,” says Betty. Thanks to her campaign, the government has agreed to fund the rehabilitation center, and community members are “anxious to see the center operational.”
Peer Education and Mentoring
The impressive range of YALI Network member Teko Kanasi’s work is an inspiring testament to her passion for her community in Ramotswa, Botswana.
Through her peer education and mentorship program, Teko visits schools to train and lead students in activities geared towards reducing common problems, such as teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse. She believes these trainings are both important and valuable for Botswana’s youth. Teko also mentors community health workers to facilitate services for orphans and vulnerable children, and she partners with local police and village development committees to run community-wide alcohol abuse awareness campaigns.
Currently, Teko is completing the YALI Network Online Course, Community Organizing for Action, which will help make even more of a positive impact in her community. Her educational program is now running in three schools, helping young people start their own businesses, reduce gender-based violence, and reduce alcohol abuse among teens. “My work has brought tremendous change to the community,” she says, “and the YALI Network has allowed me to meet other amazing members and see what a difference they’re making.”