The Center for the Education of Women hosted the Ambassador of Botswana to the United States, Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, on Wednesday to facilitate a more international focus in the department.
Seretse, who became ambassador in February 2011, is Botswana’s first female ambassador. Prior to her current position, she served in Botswana’s Parliamentary cabinets from 1999 to 2004, holding various positions including Minister of Trade and Industry, Minister of Wildlife and Tourism and Minister of Works, Transport, and Communication.
During her time on Cabinet, she successfully facilitated stronger relations with the United States as she negotiated a partnership agreement with Washington to establish an International Law Enforcement Academy in Botswana. Additionally, Seretse pushed for Botswana’s inclusion in the Africa Growth Opportunity Act to increase trade with the United States.
In addition to legislature, Seretse also has experience in the private sector as an entrepreneur and director of her family’s business, Diragake Ltd, an oil company in Botswana.
In her address, Seretse said because she has experience in both the public and private sectors, she believes there are higher expectations of her as ambassador. She added that such expectations reflect the success of her nation in the past decades since it gained independence from the United Kingdom.
Seretse primarily emphasized the heterogeneity within Africa and criticized many Americans’ conflicting tendency to refer to the continent as one would to a country.
Monica Porter, assistant vice chancellor of student success and director of the Office of International Affairs at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, travelled to Botswana as a Fulbright scholar in 2004. She said during her yearlong stay in the country, she gained a new appreciation for the diversity present within the country, as well as a heightened awareness of how individual actions can lead to change internationally.
“Whatever we do in the States or within our own departments, it impacts everyone and this is a global community,” Porter said. “We may not see the impact, but it’s a rippling effect.”
During the speech, Seretse highlighted both Botswana’s strengths and some of its challenges. Botswana currently stands as the world’s number one producer of global diamonds, and also has a strong tourism sector. Seretse even called Botswana “more peaceful than the United States,” and said policeman don’t need to carry guns.
However, Seretse also addressed gender-based violence in the country, as well as the issues faced by women in all nations.
“I never want any woman to put herself down,” she said after speaking about the lack of appreciation for the work that women do as housewives.
CEW Director, Gloria Thomas, said by promoting her own country while still acknowledging the challenges that remain, Seretse is doing her job as ambassador.
“Yes, there are challenges, and she talked about violence against women as one of them, but there’s a lot going on that’s going well,” Thomas added.
Olayinka Davids, who runs an NGO in Nigeria that promotes the success of women, brought a degree of urgency to the issue of gender-based violence as she asked the audience to pray for the girls abducted by Boko Haram.
“Because of the incident happening in my country — the missing girls — I needed to come out, to appeal, for all the others to join us in praying,” Davids said.
Seretse referenced Rwanda as another African nation who faced intense violence and genocide, but still persevered on equal rights issues. In spite of its violent past, the country has progressed in terms of gender equality in politics, and she said it’s the world leader in the number of women holding political office.
“Sometimes when I look at all the good that Rwanda is doing following the genocide, I think it is because they have women (in political office),” Seretse said. “We need to move away from just talking about democracy — we need to talk about participation in democracy.”