Botswana: Women's representation quotas

Updated May 2009

Legal quotas

The constitution of Botswana makes no provision for quotas to ensure women's representation in publicly elected bodies on any level. The language of the constitution is masculine; for instance Article 4(1) asserts that, "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the law in force in Botswana of which he has been convicted" [emphasis writer's]. Thus the word "he" appears in the text more than 150 times and the word "she" not once. The word "women" is entirely absent and only once does it appear that Batswana might be other than male, for it provides that: "every person in Botswana is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex..." (Constitution of Botswana 1966, Article 3).

The National Assembly of Botswana is elected from single member constituencies in plurality elections, a system that has, in Southern Africa (as elsewhere), tended to severely under represent women in the legislature. However, even in terms of this electoral system Botswana performs poorly, with a 11.5% representation of women in parliament after the 2004 election compared with Malawi's and Zambia's 14.0% and Zimbabwe's 16.7% (see Women's representation in the National Assembly). Far from improving, the situation actually deteriorated from the high of 18% after the 1999 election.

A degree of unease with the situation manifest itself after the 2004 election, for only four of the 57 constituency seats were won by women. This number was boosted when, as provided for by Article 58(2)9b), an additional four members were elected to the National Assembly from a list of presidential nominees, for three of the four were women (Sechele 2004, 3).

Party quotas

In the absence of legal measures to ensure better representation of women in elective bodies it is voluntary quotas imposed by parties on their candidates that provide the best prospect for gains to be made. In 1999 two opposition parties, the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), committed themselves to 30% quotas for candidates for election (Global Database of Quotas for Women 2006; Kethusegile-Juru 2002, 8). "However", Kethusegile-Juru (2002, 8) observers, "the parties themselves did not actively ensure that the quota was met, by reviewing their procedures to enhance access by women, head-hunting for women, and encouraging them to stand for the primary elections. As a result, these parties fielded very few women by the time the national parliamentary elections came up". A similar pattern repeated itself in 2004 (Sebudubudu & Osei-Hwedie 2005, 22; Global Database of Quotas for Women 2006). Indeed, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, which had not committed itself to quotas, performed better in 2004 in terms of nomination of women candidates and ensuring their election, than did the opposition parties that had committed themselves in this way (Sebudubudu & Osei-Hwedie 2005, 31; Somolekae 2005, 31).

Party leadership measures

Recognition of the need to improve women's representation in the BNF and the BCP has, according to Gloria Somolekae (2005, 31), led to the creation of mechanisms to improve the representation of women within party leadership structures at all levels. The BCP, for instance, in 2005 encouraged its regions to ensure that women form part of their representation at party congresses and women are permitted to be nominated from the floor for leadership positions, but it is not clear yet that such measures have been sufficient to improve the situation in either party (Somolekae 2005, 31).


CONSTITUTION OF BOTSWANA 1966, [www] [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).

GLOBAL DATABASE OF QUOTAS FOR WOMEN 2006 "Botswana", [www] [opens new window] (accessed 21 Jan 2010).

KETHUSEGILE-JURU, BM 2002, "Intra-Party Democracy and the Inclusion of Women" [PDF], IN Workshop: Electoral Perspectives and the Process of Democratization in DRC: Lessons from SADC, EISA.

SEBUDUBUDU, D & OSEI-HWEDIE, BZ 2005, "Women and Youth Representation" IN Democratic Consolidation in SADC: Botswana's 2004 Elections [PDF], EISA Research Report 11, 21-23.

SECHELE, S 2004 "Women's representation in Parliament" IN Election Update 2004: Botswana, 2 [PDF], 3.

SOMOLEKAE, G 2005 Political Parties in Botswana [PDF], EISA Research Report 27, 30-32.