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"Women Have No Tribe": Connecting Carework, Gender, and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana


Upton, Rebecca L. 2003. “‘Women Have No Tribe’: Connecting Carework, Gender, and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana.” Gender and Society 17 (2): 314–22.

Author: Rebecca L. Upton


The country of Botswana currently has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Government and international aid agencies have undertaken initiatives to address the rapidly growing epidemic, but few measures address the current crisis of care as a key element in that process. In this article, the author uses case study data to highlight how women in Northern Botswana are affected by the increasing burden of caregiving to children who are orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In particular, she describes how the role of women as caregivers in communities has been transformed as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She suggests that the intersecting cultural patterns of migration and reproduction are central to understanding the spread of the disease in the current emerging crisis of care.

Keywords: Botswana, HIV/AIDS, fosterage, migration, reproduction

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Health, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Households Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2003

Update on the Women’s Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?


Bauer, G. 2011. “Update on the Women’s Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?” African Studies Review 54 (2): 23–46.

Author: G. Bauer


Across Africa in the early twenty-first century, autonomous women's movements have transformed the political landscape. With their support, African women are lobbying for constitutional reforms, entering political office in unprecedented numbers, and initiating legislation to expand women's rights. African women's movements have been emboldened by changes in international and regional norms concerning women's rights and representation, a new availability of resources to enhance women's status, and in many places, an end to conflict. In Botswana, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of heightened women's mobilization. Led by the women's organization Emang Basadi, the women's movement accomplished many significant victories, including winning a landmark citizenship case, prompting a comprehensive review of laws to identify instances of gender discrimination, issuing the first women's manifesto in Africa, and organizing workshops for political parties and women candidates. Some scholars have suggested that Emang Basadi's work was responsible not just for increasing women's representation in parliament, but also for broadening democracy in Botswana. Since 2010, however, a once vibrant women's movement has gone quiet. This article seeks to understand this development and to explore how the movement might be revitalized. The article concludes by drawing comparisons with other women's movements in the region and suggesting that the women's movement in Botswana, like others in the region, may be, in the words of one scholar, "in abeyance."

Topics: Armed Conflict, Citizenship, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Women, Governance, Constitutions, Political Participation, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2011

Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana


Bolaane, Maitseo M.M. 2013. “Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana.” Journal of Southern African Studies 39 (3): 557–76. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.823319.

Author: Maitseo Bolaane


During the 1970s, the violence in neighbouring states spilled over into Botswana, making untenable its previous policy of having no army. This article examines the experiences of women in the north-east border regions who suffered violence from South African and Rhodesian soldiers crossing illegally and yet routinely into Botswana. As these incidents show, rape as a weapon of war has a long history in the region, although world attention is more recent. I suggest that a key underlying factor in the cross-border violence was the difficult and incomplete transition from permeable boundaries within a wider colonial space to hard international borders between fully independent and hostile states. As a result, the role of Botswana in the liberation struggle of southern Africa served as the main reason for the regular violations of its sovereignty during that period. The lives of ordinary people straddled the border, and so did the violence of armies, making it crucial to consider the reactions of the people of Botswana to cross-border warfare. I will also use comparisons with other notable contemporary incidents of cross-border violence and cross-border ambiguity, including one incident that took place, paradoxically, in the middle of the country, involving travel on the Rhodesian-owned railway.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2013

Gender Mainstreaming Experiences from Eastern and Southern Africa


Tadesse, Matebu, and Abiye Daniel, eds. 2010. Gender Mainstreaming Experiences from Eastern and Southern Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA).

Authors: Matebu Tadesse, Abiye Daniel


Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality. This work explores the experiences of Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia from Eastern Africa; and Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Swaziland from Southern Africa. All cases show the varied attempts to mainstream gender at national, institutional, and civil society levels, including grassroots experiences. (Google Books)

Topics: Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Year: 2010

Contagion and Chaos: Disease, Ecology, and National Security in the Era of Globalization


Price-Smith, Andrew. 2009. Contagion and Chaos: Disease, Ecology, and National Security in the Era of Globalization. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Author: Andrew Price-Smith


Historians from Thucydides to William McNeill have pointed to the connections between disease and civil society. Political scientists have investigated the relationship of public health to governance, introducing the concept of health security. In Contagion and Chaos, Andrew Price-Smith offers the most comprehensive examination yet of disease through the lens of national security. Extending the analysis presented in his earlier book The Health of Nations, Price-Smith argues that epidemic disease represents a direct threat to the power of a state, eroding prosperity and destabilizing both its internal politics and its relationships with other states. He contends that the danger of an infectious pathogen to national security depends on lethality, transmissability, fear, and economic damage. Moreover, warfare and ecological change contribute to the spread of disease and act as "disease amplifiers."

Price-Smith presents a series of case studies to illustrate his argument: the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (about which he advances the controversial claim that the epidemic contributed to the defeat of Germany and Austria); HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (he contrasts the worst-case scenario of Zimbabwe with the more stable Botswana); bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as Mad Cow Disease); and the SARS contagion of 2002-03. Emerging infectious disease continues to present a threat to national and international security, Price-Smith argues, and globalization and ecological change only accelerate the danger. (MIT Press)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Economies, Governance, Health, HIV/AIDS, Security Regions: Southern Africa, Europe Countries: Austria, Botswana, Germany, Zimbabwe

Year: 2009

The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana


Brown, Barbara. 1983. "The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana." African Affairs 82 (328): 367-88.

Author: Barbara Brown


In recent years scholars have become increasingly concerned with the role women  play in society. Researchers  studying women in the Third World have focused particularly on the impact of  development on the social and economic role of women. However, there continue to be large gaps in our understanding of women in the development process. One such gap is the impact of labor migration on women. Labor migration is a common phenomenon today both within the Third World and between it and the industrialized countries. Yet, while numerous scholars have analyzed who migrates and  what causes the migration, there has been little in-depth study of the effect  of this migration on women. Most of the existing literature assumes that migration is a rational response to a  given range of resources and choices and that, as such, the family as a unit, including the women members, benefits from such migration. This view, however,  oversimplifies the situation.  The evidence shows that high male outmigration has led to a modification in the structure of family life and has transformed women's social and economic position to their detriment.

Keywords: labor migration, gender transformation


  • In her article, Brown examines that ways in which male outmigration from Botswana alters gender relations. She argues that as men migrate out of the country, development slows, and the decrease in human capital leaves women with the burden of agricultural reproduction at very little pay. Brown notes that gender is disregarded by many researchers in the field, and she focuses her study on the extent to which gender plays into the process of capital accumulation in Botswana. She concludes that migrancy entails changes in family roles that are detrimental to women.

  • Brown uses South Africa to briefly illustrate the effect that migration has historically had on the country’s economic system, explaining how rural dwellers were forced into wage labor in order to increase human capital. She proceeds to draw a parallel between this and the situation in Botswana, as the economy in Botswana has shifted from subsistence to commercial agriculture as a result of labor migration. In her study, she focuses on the impact of migration on women, specifically. She argues that as a result of male outmigration, women have become more isolated in their marriage and family positions and their social and economic situation has also changed for the worse. 

  • Because of the high levels of outmigration in Botswana, Brown argues, marriage is now delayed until a later age, which means that women oftentimes bear children before marriage and act as single parents. These single mothers face a variety of financial issues, including the fact that they are oftentimes denied child support. This forces women to turn to their immediate family for economic assistance; however, as individualism becomes more highly valued in society, family support becomes less reliable. Research shows that “households headed by single mothers are significantly poorer than male-headed households” (376), largely because women have fewer resources for farming (i.e. access to cattle) than men do. Brown also considers the effect of female outmigration on gender roles. Many unmarried mothers will leave their children with their own parents and search for work elsewhere, allowing her to earn more money.

  • In her conclusion, Brown writes that most of the new economic opportunities in Botswana go to men rather than women, making women dependent on men financially. As Botswana transitioned to a capitalist economy, the society became dependent on migrant labor. This increase in migration changed family ties and economic relationships, even leader to a “feminization of poverty” (387), as women are less easily able to access the resources needed to prosper economically.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 1983

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