Focus on Family: Botswana

 

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Mrs Bone Lekgetho (2nd from right) with her husband and children. Image courtesy of Mrs Bone Lekgetho.

 

Botswana is a landlocked country in southern Africa. It is a country of contrasts. Rich and poor. Deltas and deserts. Of the 246 territories in the world, Botswana is the 48th largest by area. When measured in terms of population density it comes in at 234th with three people occupying each square kilometre. The Kalahari Desert accounts for 70% of the entire country's landmass. Botswana shares a border with South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The OLA Sisters this year are marking the tenth anniversary of their presence in Botswana. The first Sisters arrived in the northern town of Maun in 2008. In January 2015, a second community was established in the eastern city of Francistown, located close to the Zimbabwean border. Sr Pascaline, a native of Niger, is one of four OLA Sisters in the newly established community. As the countdown to the World Meeting of Families continues, Sr Pascaline Balima recently got the thoughts of three families on the subject of family life in Botswana.

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Map of Botswana. Source: www.bgr.bund.de.


Mrs Bone Lekgetho on family life in Botswana

I hail from the town of Mahalapye which is almost halfway between Gaborone, our capital city, and Francistown, the second largest city. This road between these two cities runs right beside Mahalpye which has a population of just over 40,000 people.

I am currently working in Francistown and this is how I have got to know the OLA Sisters who have been in this city since 2008.

The word for family in my local dialect is ‘Lelwapa’. For the people of Botswana, the extended family is very important. For me, family also includes the entire extended family along with the people you relate to including in-laws and people from your traditional village ward.

Grandparents, and older people in general, are known as the ‘Elders’ or the ‘Wise People’ of the family. They instil discipline, impart knowledge about family traditions and are an important link between the past and the present.

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Mrs Bone Lekgetho's three eldest children (back row) pictured with her God daughter. Image courtesy of Mrs Bone Lekgetho.

 

Family elders would comment on how much life has changed since they were young. They also have known how life was before independence [in 1966]. The elders say that there was a time when the population was much smaller and that family bonds were much stronger. Ownership of assets was also more communal compared to nowadays. Technology has changed the way of life, especially in the fields of transport and telecommunications.

The biggest issues facing families in Botswana include moral and social degradation, limited employment opportunities and a lack of proper guidance.

It is common for families to have meals together. During occasions like weddings or special traditional event, families come together and prepare meals to be shared by all. Communities would also come together for prayers.

In my opinion, the best thing about family life in Botswana is the togetherness and the coming together for each other during times of need i.e. during bereavements or wedding preparations. It is always wonderful to come together during family occasions such as Christmas holidays.

Veronica Mabelebele

I come from the village of Mathathane in the extreme east of Botswana, which is right beside the border with South Africa and not far from the border with Zimbabwe. I now live the Selepa district of Francistown, which is about 280km from my home village. I am a teacher.

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Veronica (right) pictured with her two daughters, Resego (left), and Lentle.

 

The word for family in my local dialect is ‘Lelwapa’ which means a group of people who are related by blood, birth, adoption, marriage or assimilation.

What does family mean to me? Members who live together, help each other, console each other in times of sorrow or happiness. Family share common values, beliefs, interests and love.

Grandparents act as advisors to their grandchildren. Sometimes they mind them in the villages while the biological parents are working in the towns. The elders tell us that they used to be poor, having little status and depended on rich families for survival by traditional forms of cooperation such as mafisa [loaning cattle]. Now status has been raised by their offspring.

Sacrificing an animal such as a goat for a family celebration is very common. Many are invited and everyone shares in the meal. Sometimes a traditional beer is prepared and shared too. Other family customs include trips to scared places such as the hills in Zimbabwe, Go Moremi and Dambashaba.

 

Buzani Malalapye-Jabari on family life in Botswana

I am a native of Francistown and I currently teach at St Kizito’s Diocesan Secondary School in the city. My area of specialisation is agriculture. I have two sisters.

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OLA Sisters with students of St Kizito's - the new Diocescan secondary school in Francistown. Image courtesy of Sr Mary T. Barron.


The word for family in my local dialect is ‘Nsha’. To me, family is the small group of people you live with. At a wider level in Botswana, family would be defined as those related to you and/or those you share values with.

Older people have a big role to play in family life especially when it comes to teaching children about culture and history.

The elders have told me know they used to rely only on farming and that they didn’t believe in educating the girl child hence my uncles had better lives than my mother - who was the only daughter.

Life continues to evolve and that is having an impact on the family. There are regular debates here about working mothers having less time for family and the best way to raise children.

We have many family rituals here in Botswana. One occasion is called ‘Family Come Together’ which is held at the home of the grandparents. We would cook, dance and since. However, since my grandparents passed away we haven’t met as a family for a long time.

For me, the best thing about family life here in Botswana is the love and support that is offered.

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Bishop Frank Atese Nubuasah, SVD, Bishop of Francistown with (from left) Srs Pascaline, Comfort, Benedicta and Agnes. Image courtesy of Sr Mary T. Barron.



- Get a glimpse in family life in each of the 19 countries where OLA are present by clicking here.