First Woman Appointed Chief in Botswana

Mosadi Seboko has been appointed chief of the Baletes tribe in Botswana. Overcoming the centuries’ old tradition only allowing men to become tribal leaders, Seboko leads one of the eight largest tribes in her county. Seboko, whose first name means “woman” in the local language, was opposed by members of her late father’s family who promoted her male cousin for the position. In response, Seboko, backed by her mother, seven sisters, and women’s rights leaders, maintained to the tribal leaders that Botswana’s 38-year-old constitution guaranteeing freedom from discrimination, and not custom, should prevail according to the New York Times.

Seboko’s victory is especially remarkable in a country where women who marry under customary law are considered minors and are expected to comply without question to their husbands’ sexual demands. According to the Times, wife beating is “all too common” in Botswana, and Seboko, who divorced her husband in 1978 because of his abuse, said, “I can’t stand violence. I didn’t want to be abused.”

Paid a salary of $2,000 a month by the government, Seboko serves her 33,000 subjects as a dispute mediator and community counselor, crime prevention officer and judge as she presides over civil cases under $1,000 (or 70 sheep or goats) and in criminal cases where the penalty is less than three years in prison or a fine.

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New York Times 12/11/04; The Scotsman 12/12/04

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