Archive | March, 2013

Bride Price in Botswana

22 Mar

This is an excerpt from my original post for the International Women’s Initiative’s Survivor’s Blog. To read the full blog, please follow this link

“At the most basic understanding of lebola, paying a bride price turns a woman into a commodity that can be bought and sold. The meaning and the implementation of the lebola has changed and been molded over time and current practices do not necessarily represent the tradition of a lebola in Botswana. In theory, the lebola is supposed to be a man’s way of showing appreciation and recognition of the woman’s value to her parents. However in practice, the lebola often limits a woman’s control and decision-making power in her marriage.”

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21 Mar

Rethink the Rant

TRIGGER WARNING:

The following includes descriptions, photos, and video that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.
Please be advised. 

Someone asked me today, “What is ‘rape culture’ anyway? I’m tired of hearing about it.”

Yeah, I hear ya. I’m tired of talking about it. But I’m going to keep talking about it because people like you keep asking that question.

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and though there are dozens of witnesses, no one says, “Stop.”

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and though there are dozens of witnesses, they can’t get anyone to come forward.

Rape culture is when a group of athletes rape a young girl, and adults are informed of it, but no consequences are doled out because the boys “said nothing happened.”

Rape culture is when a group…

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19 Mar

A great read in response to the media treatment of the Steubenville rape case.
“I have value because I am a person. Full stop. End of argument. This isn’t even a discussion that we should be having.”

The Belle Jar

I don’t have to tell you that Steubenville is all over the news.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s a fucking joke that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two teenagers convicted of raping a sixteen year old girl, were only sentenced to a combined three years in juvenile prison. Each will serve a year for the rape itself; Mays will serve an additional year for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.”

I probably don’t even have to tell you that the media treatment of this trial has been a perfect, if utterly sickening, example of rape culture, with its focus on how difficult and painful this event has been for the rapists who raped a sixteen year old girl then bragged about it on social media.

And I almost certainly don’t have to tell you that the world is full of seemingly nice, normal…

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Windhoek Township, Cape Town and a Botswana Wedding

18 Mar

I definitely posted my last Namibian post premature, because we had an amazing day after I posted it. As I previously mentioned, we had made friends with our hostel’s bartender, Greg, and he offered to take to a Windhoek township and show us around. The first place we went to was an open market. There were literally entire cows being butchered on the tables! Then there was a long row of people cooking the fresh beef. We bought some, and you just picked it up with your fingers right off the grill, dipped it into some spice and ate it… and let me tell you, it was some of the best beef I have ever tasted!

Then, we got a little walking tour around, and Greg promised us he was taking us somewhere cool – but told us to not ask questions, so we were just along for the ride! As we were walking, we came across a huge group of students in their uniforms who were taking over the streets. When we got closer, we could see that they were protesting. I asked some of the students what they were protesting and they told me that one of their female classmates had been raped and killed but that there was no justice and nothing was happening to the culprit. I asked what their goal of the protest was and I was fairly shocked by their answer – they wanted the death penalty reinstated in Namibia. I only had time to ask a few more questions, but from what I heard it was obvious that the particular students I was speaking with did not entirely understand what they were asking for. While I admired their political activism, it was evident to me that the  majority of the protesters were just following the lead of a few and were not thinking critically.

After the overwhelming noise and numbers of the protest, we veered off the main road and we went to a small lake. There, we found some absolutely amazing projects. One of them was for hearing-impaired people who were previously unemployed. They recycled old beer bottles and other glass and created beautiful beads and jewelry from them. There were also textile projects, among others, at this facility. There was an on-site shop where you could buy many of the projects, and as usual, Heather, Kelsey and I spent lots of money.

After this wonderful day, we then made it to the Intercape and began our 22-hour bus ride to Cape Town, which surprisingly wasn’t as painful as you might imagine. The Sleepliner is probably the nicest bus I will ever be on.

We met up with the Ramshaws downtown Cape Town and got settled in our respective accommodations. Kelsey and I were staying right around the corner from one of my family’s favourite restaurants from when we were there so I recommended it. We had an amazing dinner of Ethiopian food and all got caught up with each other.

The next day, Cape Town was a very busy place to be indeed! It was the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour – a grueling more than 100 km bike race through the mountainous region with over 35,000 cyclists. We spent the day wandering the city and made our way to the finish line to cheer on and support the athletes. We then went to Camp’s Bay for dinner and to watch the sunset.

Monday we did a hop on, hop off tour of the city. We went to the gorgeous Kirstenbosch Gardens and had a lovely breakfast at the Tea Room there. Then, we went on a wine tour and tasting and had some wonderful wine. We took the bus back through the city and got a great view of some of the main sites of Cape Town.

Tuesday morning, the Ramshaws and Kelsey went to Robben Island. I had already been and spent my morning sleeping in, getting a hair cut, and doing some shopping. We had a relaxing afternoon together, and went up Table Mountain in the early evening. We enjoyed some walking and a drink at the top and watched the sun set over the ocean. It was truly beautiful.

Wednesday morning, we were up bright and early to go SHARK CAGE DIVING!! We went to Gansbaai and got out on a boat. The sharks were fairly quiet though and we had some trouble getting them close – a very seasick Heather and mildly sick Liam and I all took naps while Kelsey made some new friends. When it was our turn in the cage, we gingerly got in, cringing at the freezing water (about 16 degrees!) But, the seasickness and cold were totally worth it. I don’t know if you know this, but SHARKS ARE SO COOL!!! We got amazing views of great whites that were within a few meters of us – truly phenomenal. We then went to Boulders’s Beach in Simonstown (beautiful town) to visit the African penguins! It was my second time there, but no less fun.

We made our way back to Botswana on Thursday, and I spent Friday just relaxing in Gabs. Saturday was a very special day – a wedding! Heather and Kelsey’s friends from Shakawe were getting married and I got to crash it. It was really interesting to see a traditional Botswana wedding (even though the bride was American, it was very traditionally Batswana). It was particularly funny listening to how all the speeches got translated into English for us – some things were definitely lost in translation! We had a wonderful time meeting people, eating, laughing and of course, dancing.

I had an amazing two weeks, and now I am back in the office and I can’t believe that in just 6 short weeks I will be back at St. Paul’s!

Namibia Part 2: Swakopmund and Karaoke

8 Mar

So Swakopmund was amazing and is probably one of my favourite places ever.

First off, it is on the coast and the ocean is just always beautiful and that means that there is fresh seafood. Secondly, there are absolutely amazing sand dunes.

Our first full day we went to Walvis Bay which was beautiful but there wasn’t a ton to see. We went back to Swakopmund for a delicious lunch and a little cafe and spent our afternoon shopping. I have bought some beautiful and unique artwork and serving dishes for the house I don’t have.

Then we went for dinner at the end of the jetty. It was super windy and I was actually cold for the first time in a long time!! The restaurant was kind of fancy but luckily we had all picked that night to wear dresses! We all splurged for delicious sea food dishes and yummy desserts.

The next morning we went sandboarding (with Khoi San Sandboarding, I would definitely recommend them) on the dunes with a great view of the ocean. It was kind of like snowboarding but not as fast and definitely not as cold! Plus instead of a ski lift you walk up huge sand dunes – a work out indeed.

We all had our fair share of wipe outs but it didn’t hurt as much as I though it would. We all also had at least a few successful runs and it was super fun and amazing. Our instructor Eben was really great and let us try the lie-down option as well – it was like using a magic carpet while tobogganing! We all had a wonderful time but were absolutely caked in sand! I think we brought back an entire dune’s worth of sand back to the hostel.

We had enough time to shower before our next adventure though – quad-biking!

We went for 2 hours on 4x4s through the dunes. My bike was having some technical difficulties and kept getting stuck in the sand (I thought it was me but then it happened to the guide too!) so I switched bikes with the guide. And of course, his was manual not automatic, so I got my first lesson on driving an automatic vehicle in the middle of the dunes! It was an incredible experience and the dunes are absolutely breathtaking. Driving the bikes and playing on the dunes was fun too!

Needless to say we were extremely exhausted after those adventures, and were in bed by 9!

After traveling back to Windhoek yesterday, we were craving some fast food and ordered greasy amazing Chinese food. We had made friends with our hostel’s bartender the last time we were here, and he invited us out for karaoke. Kels was too tired but Heather and I went. We made our Namibian friends sing My Heart Will Go On since when they found out we are Canadian they told us they loved Celine Dion. Heather and I then wow’d everyone with our renditions of I Want it That Way and Summer of ’69.

Now we are preparing for our loooooong bus ride to Cape Town but are very excited to get to the coast again and to meet up with Heather’s family.

Namibia Part 1!

4 Mar

I am on a much needed vacation! Heather and Kelsey arrived in Ghanzi Friday evening and I got to show them Ghanzi’s nightlife (hopping’, let me tell you!)

Saturday morning we began our trek to Namibia. We were hitching so we were a little unsure of how it would go. We headed to the hitching spot out of Ghanzi and started to get settled in for a long wait, when after just a few minutes we got an air conditioned ride to Junction 44 (the turn off towards namibia) which costed us 10 pula. At the junction we lucked out again! We got another air conditioned ride within minutes. The driver was super nice and took us all the way to Windhoek and refused to take any money from us all. So, we made it all the way from Ghanzi to Windhoek for less than $2!

There is not a lot to do in Windhoek but we had a great time catching up with each other, eating good food, making new friends and eating real ice cream!

Today we arrived in the beautiful Swakopmund. We spent the afternoon exploring the town and had some delicious fresh seafood for dinner. We were enjoying our food when a man came over and said his friend wanted our help in checking an item off his bucket list: he wanted to take a piece of food off someone’s plate at a restaurant! We drove a hard bargain and got a round of yummy cocktails in return for Heather’s potatoe!

We are now planning our activities to make the most of the ocean and the and dunes!

Why Statistics Matter

1 Mar

It is no big secret to anyone that statistics was NOT my favourite course during my university career. However, I do recognize the importance of statistics. This is was clearly demonstrated to me when I read a report at a workshop for growing the informal employment sector in Botswana.

A study was done about the informal sector, and part of the study was based on the income levels of those working in the informal sector. The mean income was BWP 2,557.65 (or about $320) with a standard deviation of 7,202.41 – this high of a standard deviation means that the responses are very spread out over a large range of values (the minimum was BWP 0 and the maximum was BWP 60,000 – $7,500). BUT the mode (most frequently encountered response) was BWO 500 ($62.50). The quartile analysis was revealed a more clear picture: the mean incomes for the first, second and third quartiles were BWP 500, BWP 1,000 and P3,050 respectively.

So why does this matter? It gives a very clear explanation of how the mean does not necessarily give an accurate representation of the data. This is particularly important in a country like Botswana. Botswana is currently labeled as an upper-middle income country, with a GDP/capita of $16,800 (or BWP 134,400). However I can tell you from experience that this not reflect the reality of the situation in most of the country – particularly in remote, rural areas. And if more statistics were available, they would tell you (and all the donors that have pulled out of Botswana) too.