Ditshwanelo – my first day

Gaborone Travel Blog

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Entry to Ditshwanelo

There I was, sitting on a chair right beside the entrance, looking at the clock: it was shortly past 8 AM. The receptionist, Virginia, had called Mma Mtunzi, my superior, who was on her way. Andrew, the administrator and so far only contact at Ditshwanelo, was not around, he had gone to the Kasane office in the far north of Botswana. I was a little anxious and I was excited to finally be there and start the work that I had wanted to do for almost a year now.


After a while, a lady arrived who introduced herself as Flora. She had a broad smile and gentle handshake. She asked me to sit at the conference table, and then arrived in short order Mma Mtunzi, the head of the paralegal program, Ingrid, Mma Mogwe, the founder and director of Ditshwanelo, and Marcella, a Dutch law student also working for the centre until early July (I met her friend who also volunteers for the centre later).

My favourite juice
Mma Mogwe greeted me in impeccable British English by saying: “I saw your blog yesterday. What kind of a group is that?” I first felt like I had done something wrong, but I guess that’s just me…She was keenly interested and explained that she sometimes googled to see what’s on the net on Botswana. There she came across my blog. Isn't that something? J


The meeting was to welcome me and introduce some staff. My superior hails from Zimbabwe but has lived in Botswana for over 18 years and is a Motswana citizen now. The staff is very international, with staffers from Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the interns. It was a warm welcome and they presented me with what will be my tasks in the next three months: I am to assist on the revision of the centre’s “Botswana HIV/AIDS Charter”, a set of guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of infected by the society. The charter was first drawn up in the mid-1990ies, was revised in 2002 and a third revision is now due. Also, I am to revise one of their booklets in the “Know your law”-series, a series of brochures designed for average citizens to be made aware of their rights and responsibilities. They deal with a broad range of topics, from land laws to criminal law to domestic workers. I will work in the labour law brochure. The third area of concern will be drafting a list with human rights instruments ratified by Botswana and then monitoring via the press which violations occur. This is to lead into a comprehensive overview on the state of human rights in Botswana.


At the end of the meeting the director suggested that I attend a workshop on “Access to justice” which will be held during the next two days. Botswana has no legal aid system and Ditshwanelo has been a strong voice for creating such a framework. Ditshwanelo currently counsels over 700 people per year for free who cannot afford to see a lawyer. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The workshop is filled with a lot of interesting participants, especially high ranking government officials. It will be opened by the new president, Ian Khama Seretse Khama, son of the legendary first president of modern Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama. I am thrilled to get to see him in person at such an early stage!


After this meeting ended I was shown around the compound, which is really nice, with a small library, a back house and a wooden container for the paralegal team. This will probably become my second home for the next three months. Everyone seemed really nice and I think I will get along just fine with them.


I did some reading on the centre’s work when a meeting was called to discuss the further proceeding with the AIDS charter. It turned out during the meeting that I will actually be going along with three staffers to Francistown in two weeks for a weeklong row of workshops on getting input for the revision. This is so cool! I am really looking forward to it.


Then it was time for lunchbreak which I spent at the apartment, which is a mere 3 minutes walk from the office. I then went to the main mall to get stamps and bought a second SIM-card for my cell, this time from the other provider: MASCOM. It does not work either…I can call, but cannot sent text messages. This is really frustrating. In Europe, we are so used to messaging with our cells that I can hardly take it!


After lunchbreak, time just flew: I did some reading, talked with the other interns, researching, did a couple of follow up phone calls and then it was 5 PM and the office closed. I intended to stay on a bit, but I had to leave…how nice! J


I am pretty worn now, at the end of my first day: So many new people, tasks, surroundings. It was incredibly exciting and I am so much looking forward to give them as much support as I can muster. These really are highly dedicated folks and I am proud to be among them…


Picture of the day: My favourite fruit juice around here. Some might know the brand: Ceres. They produce some excellent stuff and I have completely fallen for this particular juice…   

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Entry to Ditshwanelo
Entry to Ditshwanelo
My favourite juice
My favourite juice
photo by: Niki-Travelfan