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Navigating Identities in Botswana

Peace Corps’ ICDEIA approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

Botswana has made strides towards promoting inclusivity and accessibility for individuals with disabilities, but attitudes vary across communities. While there is growing awareness and acceptance, stigma and misconceptions about disabilities still exist in some areas. Volunteers may encounter a range of attitudes towards disabilities, from acceptance and support to ignorance and discrimination.

Accessibility infrastructure in Botswana can vary widely, with urban areas generally offering better accessibility compared to rural communities. While some public buildings and transportation options may be accessible, many areas still lack proper accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Volunteers should be prepared to navigate various challenges related to accessibility in their communities and workplaces.

Volunteers with physical or mobility disabilities may face challenges navigating uneven terrain, lack of ramps or elevators, and limited accessible transportation options.

Limited access to sign language interpretation and assistive devices may pose challenges for deaf or hard of hearing Volunteers. Volunteers may need to rely on written communication or seek alternative communication methods to effectively communicate with community members and counterparts.

Lack of braille signage, audio information, and tactile cues may present challenges for blind or visually impaired Volunteers.

Peace Corps Botswana is committed to supporting Volunteers with disabilities and providing resources to help them navigate their service effectively. Volunteers are encouraged to communicate their needs and challenges with Peace Corps staff, who can offer assistance and guidance as needed. Additionally, Volunteers are encouraged to connect with local disability organizations and community members to learn about available resources and support networks.

Gender role considerations

Botswana has made progress towards gender equality, but traditional gender roles may still influence societal expectations and dynamics.

While women hold prominent positions in government and the private sector, rural communities may adhere more closely to traditional gender roles, with men often holding greater authority over decision-making.

Infrastructure in Botswana may not always be gender-sensitive, with limited accommodations for women's needs, such as access to sanitation facilities and safety measures. Volunteers should be aware of cultural norms and expectations surrounding gender roles, including appropriate dress in specific settings and behavior, particularly in rural communities.

Transgender and nonbinary Volunteers are encouraged to seek support and resources from Peace Corps Botswana staff. Peace Corps Botswana is committed to creating an inclusive environment where all Volunteers feel respected and supported, regardless of their gender identity.

Peace Corps Volunteers have the opportunity to promote gender equity and challenge stereotypes through their community engagement and projects. By facilitating discussions on gender equality, advocating for women's empowerment, and promoting inclusive practices, Volunteers can contribute to positive change and foster greater gender equity in their communities.

Volunteers receive training and resources on gender awareness and sensitivity during pre-service training (PST) and throughout their service. Peace Corps Botswana offers workshops, discussions, and resources to support Volunteers in navigating gender dynamics and promoting gender equity in their work and communities.

LGBTQI+ considerations

While some segments of society are becoming more accepting, traditional norms and societal expectations may still pose challenges for LGBTQI+ Volunteers. In rural areas, where traditional gender roles are often more pronounced, LGBTQI+ Volunteers may face greater stigma and discrimination.

Despite legal progress, there is still a lack of widespread acceptance and understanding of LGBTQI+ issues within the broader culture. Conversations around LGBTQI+ rights and identities remain relatively taboo in many social circles, contributing to a climate of silence and invisibility for LGBTQI+ individuals.

However, there are also pockets of acceptance and support within the community, particularly among younger generations and in urban areas, where attitudes towards LGBTQI+ rights are gradually evolving.

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in Botswana in 2019, following a landmark ruling by the High Court. The ruling declared laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations unconstitutional, marking a significant step towards LGBTQI+ rights in the country. However, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains prevalent, despite legal protections outlined in the constitution. The Employment Act of Botswana prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation, providing some level of protection in the workplace.

Efforts towards achieving full equality and recognition for the LGBTQI+ community continue to evolve, with advocacy groups and legal reforms working towards ensuring equal rights and protections for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Botswana is home to a rich tapestry of racial and ethnic identities, reflecting a diverse cultural heritage shaped by indigenous tribes, colonial history, and migration patterns. While the majority of the population in Botswana identifies as Batswana (Tswana people), there is also significant diversity among minority ethnic groups, including Kalanga, San, and Bakgalagadi, among others. Volunteers may encounter a range of racial and ethnic identities within their communities, each with its own unique cultural practices, languages, and traditions.

Volunteers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black/African American, indigenous, Latino/Hispanic, and White individuals, may have different experiences and perspectives during their service. While Botswana is generally welcoming and inclusive, Volunteers may encounter instances of racial or ethnic stereotyping, bias, or discrimination, albeit infrequently.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Volunteers may encounter confusion within the Botswana business community, as they may be mistaken for Chinese due to similar physical features or cultural stereotypes.

Black/African American Volunteers may experience being mistaken for local community members, given similarities in appearance, which can sometimes lead to challenges in establishing their identity within their host communities.

White Volunteers may benefit from privilege and preferential treatment within their communities, as their race often aligns with historical power dynamics and societal norms, potentially providing them with advantages in their interactions and integration efforts. However, Volunteers also have the opportunity to challenge stereotypes, promote diversity and inclusion, and foster cross-cultural understanding through their interactions and community engagement.

Peace Corps Botswana is committed to supporting Volunteers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and providing resources to help them navigate their service effectively. Volunteers are encouraged to engage in ongoing cross-cultural training and dialogue, seek support from Peace Corps staff and fellow Volunteers, and actively participate in community integration activities to build meaningful connections and promote diversity and inclusion. Additionally, Volunteers are encouraged to explore and learn about the rich cultural heritage and traditions of Botswana's diverse racial and ethnic communities, fostering mutual respect and appreciation for the country's diversity.

Age considerations

Botswana is a society that values wisdom, experience, and respect for elders, providing a cultural advantage for older Volunteers. Older Volunteers, including those over the age of 50, may be viewed with reverence and afforded greater respect by community members due to their age and life experience.

Older Volunteers bring a wealth of life experience, skills, and maturity to their service, which can enhance their effectiveness in community engagement and project implementation. Their life experience and perspective may also enable them to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics and cultural nuances more effectively.

While older Volunteers may be respected in their communities, they may also face challenges related to physical stamina and adaptability to new environments. Adjusting to the pace of life in Botswana, including hot weather and limited infrastructure, may require older Volunteers to exercise patience and resilience.

Peace Corps Botswana is committed to supporting Volunteers of all ages and providing resources to help them navigate their service effectively. Older Volunteers are encouraged to communicate their needs and challenges to Peace Corps staff, who can offer assistance and guidance as needed. Additionally, older Volunteers may benefit from connecting with other Volunteers of similar age and experience, as well as tapping into local support networks within their communities.

Religious considerations

Botswana is a religiously diverse country, with Christianity being the predominant religion, followed by indigenous beliefs, Islam, and Hinduism, among others. Religious practices and beliefs are deeply ingrained in Botswana's culture and society, influencing daily life, social interactions, and community dynamics.

Botswana is generally tolerant and respectful of religious diversity, with freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution. Religious practices and traditions are often intertwined with cultural customs and celebrations, creating a rich tapestry of religious expression. Churches play a central role in many communities across Botswana, serving as places of worship, community gatherings, and social support networks.

Volunteers may have the opportunity to engage with local churches and religious leaders, participating in religious ceremonies, community outreach programs, and cultural events. Volunteers should approach religious discussions and interactions with sensitivity and open-mindedness, fostering dialogue and understanding while avoiding imposing their own beliefs on others.

Peace Corps Botswana is committed to supporting Volunteers in navigating religious considerations and providing resources to help them engage respectfully with diverse religious communities.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

Serving as a couple in Peace Corps Botswana presents unique challenges and opportunities. Couples may face stereotypes or misconceptions about their relationship dynamic, but they also have the advantage of offering a diverse perspective and support system to their community.

Couples should be prepared to navigate cultural norms and expectations surrounding relationships, as well as potential challenges related to privacy, communication, and work-life balance. Peace Corps Botswana recognizes the importance of supporting volunteer couples and offers specific resources and assistance tailored to their needs.

Botswana is a conservative society where traditional gender roles and expectations surrounding relationships may be prevalent. While same-sex relationships are not criminalized in Botswana, societal attitudes towards LGBTQI+ couples may vary, and discretion may be advisable in certain contexts.

Couples should be mindful of local customs and cultural sensitivities and may need to adapt their behavior and communication styles accordingly to foster positive relationships within their community.

Volunteer couples have the opportunity to leverage their relationship to build stronger connections within their community and establish meaningful relationships with community members. By working collaboratively and integrating into community life together, couples can demonstrate unity, mutual respect, and cultural openness, fostering greater trust and understanding with their host community.

Couples are encouraged to actively engage with local traditions, participate in community events, and seek opportunities for cross-cultural exchange, enhancing their service experience and strengthening their bond as a couple.

What types of ICDEIA support are available in country?

Peace Corps Botswana’s ICDEIA Committee develops and implements strategies and initiatives to support intercultural diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility among Volunteers. The committee focuses on identifying and addressing systemic barriers and challenges faced by Volunteers from diverse backgrounds, advocating for policy changes and providing resources to foster a more inclusive and equitable environment.

The Peer Support and Diversity Network/Volunteer affinity groups offer a space for Volunteers with shared identities or experiences to connect, support one another, and advocate for their needs within the Peace Corps community. Affinity groups may include groups based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, or other shared characteristics, providing a supportive network for Volunteers to discuss issues, share resources, and organize events and activities.

During pre-service training, Volunteers receive training and resources on intercultural competency, diversity awareness, and inclusion practices to prepare them for service in Botswana.

Throughout their service, Volunteers have access to ongoing training, workshops, and resources on ICDEIA topics, including cultural sensitivity, unconscious bias, and inclusive community development strategies.

Peace Corps Botswana is committed to providing comprehensive support and resources to ensure that all Volunteers feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute to meaningful change in their communities.