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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Botswanan professor explains gender roles in her country

African and Utah families are not as different as distance would assume.

Visiting professor Tapologo Maundeni, from the department of social work at the University of Botswana, discussed family structure in her country on the U campus on March 29.

In Botswana, women work and are successful professionals outside of the home; however, there are still gender differences, Maundeni said. For example, women are expected to raise children, and male roles are dominant.

There is also a difference in the way male children are brought up. They are somewhat spoiled, while more is expected of female children.

Maundeni said she felt this results in men having limited coping skills. The men are not expected to make decisions or have responsibilities while growing up. Therefore, once they are grown, they are not well prepared to take on major life decisions.

Maundeni also discussed how language reinforces these gender roles. She shared some of the words from wedding songs that refer to women as property.

Graduate student in social work Heather McKinnon agreed that some cultural conventions enforce negative gender roles.

“Traditions such as songs and perceptions of what a man and women should be like are really keeping women in a bad position there,” she said.

She pointed out the contradictions in the culture. Botswana has a modern society and is the third-largest producer of diamonds. Yet, under the surface, there are many practices and structures that reinforce traditional roles for men and women.

Christianity has a strong influence on Botswanan culture and increases gender differences, Maundeni said. Christianity has prescribed roles for men and women; for instance, women are not ordained to the priesthood.

Maundeni said that it is time Botswana started teaching boys that it’s OK to cry and have feelings. Right now, they do not know how to communicate frustrations in ways other than fighting, making boys particularly susceptible to peer pressure.

“I am from Botswana, and I like the exposure to a different society. It is an enriching experience,” said Yorokee Kapimbua, a graduate student in social work.

Kapimbua said he is glad to learn that non-custodial fathers are recognized as important players in the overall growth and development of children.

The Botswanan educational system, to some extent, is the same as the one here. The difference occurs in that Botswana is economically small and not able to provide the same opportunities as are available in the United States, said Tibapi Gucha, a graduate student in social work.

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