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Nick Pyle

British High Commissioner to Botswana

Part of UK in Botswana

30th April 2014 Gaborone, Botswana

It’s time to act together

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” Gloria Steinem

Botswana recently joined the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day under the theme “Equality for women is progress for all”. Shortly after that, Margaret Nasha, Botswana’s Madame Speaker, released her eagerly awaited autobiography. Her story is inspiring and highlights the importance of successful female role models in leadership. She is far from the only successful woman in Botswana, but as the title “Madam Speaker, Sir” suggests, women in power remain relatively rare.

Consider Mma Hubona who became the first women on the opposition benches when she won the recent Francistown West by-election. There is no doubt that Botswana has made progress in women’s rights but I believe there is still more to be done.

It is only by ensuring that women are represented in positions of power that contentious issues like tackling gender based violence or access to abortion,  can be fully debated and addressed. We need to tackle difficult questions such as: how can we increase the number of young women in leadership positions? Why don’t young women have the same access to employment and participation in decision-making as young men? International Women’s Day will spark these debates and steer public opinion. So too, I hope, will Nasha’s book. That’s why we need such things.

The UK believes to achieve full social, political and economic empowerment for women everywhere, we need to end sexual violence in conflict.  There is more that can – and must – be done to combat this issue and particularly to address the culture of impunity for these crimes that has been allowed to develop. Bringing an end to sexual violence in conflict is an issue of international peace and security.  While men and boys are also victims of this abhorrent crime, it is women and girls that are disproportionally affected.

To address this issue, the British Foreign Secretary launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in May 2012.  PSVI aims to strengthen international efforts and co-ordination to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict, to erode the existing culture of impunity, to increase the number of perpetrators brought to justice internationally and nationally, and to support conflict-affected states to build capacity to tackle it themselves.

Sexual violence has long been used as a weapon against civilian populations, including refugee populations, in conflict. It is often deliberately inflicted in order to physically and psychologically injure, to humiliate, to degrade and to stigmatise individuals and communities. Rape as a war crime is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. Yet sexual violence continues to be used actively as a tool of war. We saw it in the Balkans in the 1990s. We see it now in conflict zones in parts of Africa and the Middle East, most notably Syria today. Yet successful prosecutions of offenders have been, and continue to be, few and far between.

The objective of the UK’s PSVI is practical action: more prosecutions, better evidence to underpin judicial cases, support for survivors, the steady elimination of this horrific crime in conflict-affected countries.

Last September in at the UN in New York, the Foreign Secretary launched the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict which has now been endorsed by 143 countries, including Botswana.  And in June, the Foreign Secretary will co-host a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict with the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, which will focus on turning the political commitments into practical action.

The more voices that can be added to the debate, the more the chance of change. Here in Botswana, we are planning to host a model UN event involving Batswana students to raise awareness. We have invited the Botswana government at senior level to attend the Global Summit, and we are encouraging the government to use its influence in the SADC region and in Africa more widely to secure progress.

About Nick Pyle

Nicholas John Pyle OBE, MBE was accredited as British High Commissioner to the Republic of Botswana and UK Representative to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in February 2013. Nick…

Nicholas John Pyle OBE, MBE was accredited as British High
Commissioner to the Republic of Botswana and UK Representative to the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) in February 2013.
Nick Pyle joined the FCO in 1981 and until 1996 he held various
positions, including postings to Geneva, Kabul, Jeddah, Bridgetown and
Colombo where he focussed on political and consular work.
He has spent the last eight years working on Africa and was recently
the Deputy Head of Africa Department – Central and Southern. Nick Pyle’s
last overseas posting was in Nairobi where he spent five years, the
last of which was on secondment to the United Nations Political Office
for Somalia, working on a broad range of security, conflict, governance
and development issues in Somalia.
Nick was awarded the MBE in 1999 and the OBE in 2009. He is married to Ros Day and they have two sons and one daughter.

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