From the start of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, women in leadership positions all around the world have played, and continue to play, significant roles in helping their communities get through the pandemic. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be the most popular example of this; her leadership has helped her country become practically COVID-19 free, and is even open for concerts while the rest of the world is still grappling with the effects of the pandemic.
But she is far from the only one.
In Botswana, where COVID-19 cases are rising, women, from the health sector to social development, are helping the country and its citizens navigate the pandemic. Here are just a few of the women who are making a difference in Botswana.
1. Dr. Tendani Gaolathe, medical practitioner
Dr. Tendani Gaolathe is the director of Botswana-based operations for the Botswana-Rutgers Partnership for Health. She is a lead investigator for the partnership’s research and capacity-building initiatives related to cancer care and prevention, COVID-19, and health care training in Botswana.
Dr. Gaolathe’s contributions to Botswana’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are extensive. In a country with a very fragile and mostly archaic healthcare system, Dr. Gaolathe’s contributions include being in the writing committee of Botswana’s guideline for preparing healthcare facilities to be able to deal with COVID-19.
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, it is through this contribution in the writing of the healthcare facilities guidelines that the country’s healthcare system has not totally succumbed to the pressure of having to deal with rising COVID-19 cases.
2. Gogontlejang Phaladi, philanthropist and development practitioner
Gogontlejang Phaladi is the founder and executive director of a non-profit-making non-governmental organization called the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project.
She founded the organization more than10 years ago in response to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected with HIV in Botswana. She is currently a Board Member of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, National Children’s Council, and a member of the National Vision 2036 Council.
Throughout the pandemic, Gogontlejang, in her personal capacity and through her organization, has embarked on numerous initiatives such as organizing fundraising events for women and children’s shelters, sensitization and raising awareness through social media about gender-based violence, which has increased, particularly during the lockdown.
3. Lillian Moremi, learning and development professional
Lillian Moremi has more than 10 years of experience in driving the country’s youth development agenda, specifically in youth leadership, and preparing young people for the labor market, access to sustainable jobs, and promoting youth employment services. She is the founder of Botswana Student Network and is currently a Learning and Development consultant at Career Coaching (Pty) Ltd, a social enterprise she founded in 2013 to promote skills development and productivity in the workplace.
Her work also involves helping organizations successfully transition youth from school to the world of work. Lillian is also the #Girls4Girls Botswana Country Team Leader, a mentorship network empowering women to lead; moderator of YouMatch (GIZ project), a global network of experts in employment services, member of International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and YALI Alumni (Young African Leader Initiative – Mandela Washington Fellowship). During the pandemic, Lillian’s work has proved to be of much importance as she supports youths in being able to secure employment opportunities during a time when they are so rare because of reduced economic activity stemming from COVID-19.
4. Thato Angela Chuma, entrepreneur and development activist
Thato Angela Chuma is a creative entrepreneur, musician, writer, curator, and developmental activist. She is the founder and partner of the social enterprise and advocacy enterprise “TheLocalSliceBW.” Created in 2018, the company seeks to nurture a vibrant entrepreneurial culture in Botswana by fostering the positioning of local products, services, and innovations at the forefront in our industries.
With its mandate to be a catalyst in the development of small, micro, and medium enterprises, the Local Slice BW was shortlisted as a National Finalist for the 2019 Southern Africa Startup Awards under the Social Impact category. During the pandemic when most small businesses are struggling to reach their market, TheLocalSliceBW has proven to be helpful by employing digital marketing methods to help businesses increase the visibility and awareness of their products and services.
5. Dr. Tlamelo Setshwaelo, medical doctor
Dr. Tlamelo Setshwaelo is part of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Medical Team at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital. After working in England for 2.5 years following medical school, Dr. Setshwaelo returned to Botswana to work as a medical officer when the pandemic became a reality in her home country and cases started appearing.
She and her team of specialist physicians, fellow medical officers, nurses, healthcare assistants, dieticians, and more, — receive unwell and critical patients from around Botswana who need specialized COVID-19 medical treatment. Their hospital is currently the referral hospital for citizens around the country infected with COVID-19.
As Botswana continues with her COVID-19 recovery efforts, the above mentioned are just an example of the multitudes of women leading this charge against the pandemic. Be it in healthcare, social development, innovation, community organizing, etc, Batswana women in leadership continue to demonstrate their capabilities during times of distress, helping the country through these uncertain times and while providing healing, both literally and metaphorically, in the road to COVID-19 recovery.
We salute them all!