I am Bojosi Gamontle.I am the
oldest of four children, a wife and a mother. I was born and raised in Botswana
to a single mother who worked hard to provide for her children and sometimes
many of the members of her extended family. As is probably common to most
Africans, I grew up in a family which was on the lower end of the Socio-Economic
Status. Fortunately, I received a scholarship from the Government of Botswana
to study for my first degree which was in Occupational Therapy (OT), in
Australia in the late 1990s.
One of the primary reasons I had
chosen to be an OT was that I had an uncle, who had epilepsy and other cognitive
disabilities, and having watched him struggle with daily activities, I wanted
to be an Occupational Therapist to assist him and other Batswana with similar
conditions. Unfortunately my uncle passed away before I completed my OT degree.
 After completing my OT degree I went
back to Botswana where I practiced as an OT for about four years. I then
realized that I wanted to work at a policy-making level and because while
studying OT, I had found the specialties of Occupational Rehabilitation and
Ergonomics to be enjoyable, I decided to change the course of my career to
Occupational Health (A field which I believed to be similar to the above-named
OT specialties- which of course I learnt later that there were significant
differences, but nonetheless,I remain passionate about identifying hazards and
controlling these in work environments.) After working tremendously hard on
securing a scholarship for graduate education, I won the prestigious Fulbright
scholarship (2006) to study for a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH)
specializing in Environmental and Occupational Health in the United States.
Following completion of my MPH, I went back to Botswana where I practiced for about
a year as a senior health officer in Environmental and Occupational Health
department of the Ministry of Health. During this time, I had an opportunity to
work on some special assignments such as being a reviewer of Environmental and
Occupational research proposals for the local ethics review board; being part
of a task group working on a national food policy, sitting in review meetings
for the HIV/AIDS policy and the Botswana’s Public Health Act. I also had the
priviledge of being requested to be one of the directors of ceremonies for
public events which were covered by the media, and one of which was a request
by the then Minister of Health to co-direct an event attended by high-ranking
public officials.
 While studying for an MPH in United States, I
had had mentors who encouraged me to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), and
I found their guidance valid and in line with what I envisioned for myself. I
applied for admission and got accepted into the then School of Occupational
& Environmental Health at the University of British Columbia in Canada, now
merged with the School of Population and Public Health. This is where I currently
am and working on completing my Ph.D in Occupational and Environmental Health,
focusing on Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
(TB) in health care workers.
Beyond my dissertation work, I
continue to mentor some young people from all over Africa, specifically on
matters of education and often in life-skills in general. At the very least, I
receive one email per month from someone in Africa requesting guidance on
securing scholarships and application for admission into Canadian or US
Universities. It is for this reason that I decided to write a brief book
outlining steps of searching for a scholarship and applying for admission into
Canadian and US Universities, and the first format of the book will be
published and launched in the next few weeks as a kindle ebook. More
information will be published on my personal website, www.bojosigamontle.com
These are all such great words
we aspire to be, but I think the ones I hope to embody more would be “Resilience”,”Vision”
and “Wisdom.”!
Resilience: One of the things
that no human being is immune to is challenges. Regardless of how much wealth,
education or power one has, life always brings storms in our lives, and it respects
no one, and I am no exception. I have faced difficulty in different seasons of
my life and though I have always had a tenacious spirit in me, I have had to move
to a higher realm on resilience in the past two years. I was faced with new
challenges and had to develop higher dimensions of resilience which I believe
is a trait that we must allow to develop in us, by not shying away from
challenges. Which of course is much easier to say when you are not faced with a
problem at that point?
Vision: Is one of my favourite
words, and most of my blog posts centre around vision. Here is the one that is
the most relevant as it touches a bit on Africa as a whole.
http://bojosigamontle.com/the-bicycle-and-the-vision/ Vision is the ability to
project one’s thinking ahead into the future, have a mental picture of what a
positive future could look like and then put those thoughts and pictures onto
paper as a plan for the future. Things of course never go as planned but as
they say, “if you fail to plan, you plan
to fail”.
I can say that where I am today, is primarily because of the
vision I had and wrote down years ago. When my husband and I met, we sat down
and wrote down the vision of our family, and by God’s grace that vision, will
also be achieved in the next 10/20/30 years and even 100 years, long after my
husband and are gone.
Wisdom: Wisdom is the ability to
make positive life-decisions based on the facts one has at their disposal. One
of my favourite scriptures says The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the
(Proverbs 3:19) and also I wisdom dwell with
prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions”
(Proverbs 8:12, KJV).From
this I gather that wisdom is a highly creative force, and wisdom, plus action
can result in thriving.
I have heard several turning
points in my life and of the ones that changed my life significantly and
continue today, was when I became a person of faith. My believe and faith in
God (through Jesus Christ) has gradually changed my identity and relationships,
my priorities, my focus, my purpose and the things I can and cannot do. On the
earthly realm, my mother would have to be one of those who influenced me. I
tell my friends that if you think, I have any sense of style, “I got it from my
momma”, well I even sound like my mom sometimes – or so they say.
There are so many people who
have had such a great a positive impact in my life, who continue to inspire me,
and it is such a difficult feat to narrow down to only three. The three I share
now, are people I have watched and interacted with in the past 10 years whose
lives are simply remarkable.
My aunt, Ontibile Blumer: My
aunt is one of my family members who were there for me when I was growing up.
She took time to educate me on changes that happen in a young person’s life and
guided me to grow into a young woman. My aunt has always been a somewhat
eccentric person, a person who dances to the tune of her own music, and I
always find that an attractive quality in people. Someone who determines that
they are going to lead their lives they way they choose no matter what family
or society say. One of the most impressive things about my aunt, is her
resilience; the woman is like the mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes. She
just does not know how to quit, and when people count her out, she comes back
Dr Susan Keitumetse: Dr
Keitumetse is a dear friend and exemplary human being. We have known each other
for the past twenty years and we attended the same secondary school. When we were
in secondary school, she got expelled from school just before writing the
secondary school exit exams because she had fallen pregnant. This was in accordance with the
country’s education policy at the time. She went on to have a baby, a now phenomenal young
lady, who is inspiring in her own right. Dr Keitumetse then navigated the
education system and got back on track and ultimately graduated from Cambridge
University with a Ph.D.She is now a world-renowned well-published researcher
and scholar. She recently added to her repertoire of publications, a text book
entitled: African Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management, which you can
find here: (http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319320151?countryChanged=true).Dr Keitumetse inspires me
because she is one of the examples of the resilience and capacity of the
indomitable human spirit!
Professor Sheila Tlou: Professor
Tlou is an all round impressive human being. She trained as a nurse, became a
researcher, lecturer and a professor at the University of Botswana. She is one
of Botswana’s former Ministers of Health and a current UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and
Southern Africa, and a gender activist. Her efforts for her work in the
HIV/AIDS health policy arena have been recognized nationally, regionally and internationally
with over 20 awards. All these of course are great accomplishments and call to
be emulated, but one thing that has made Professor Tlou even more memorable to
me, is that years ago, in 2009 to be specific, I was at a cross roads in my
life and in need of guidance, and she gave me advice that encouraged and
propelled me in the right direction, and for this I remain grateful and
continue to look up to her wisdom! I also find Professor Tlou exemplary because
of the relationship she had with her late husband, Professor Thomas Tlou. They
had a marriage that even her peers continue to positively and greatly talk about
and in an environment where marriage was/is not valued by many. She is also an
exemplary parent to her children and if my children can grow up to look up to
me like hers do, I would be a blessed woman. She is also very active on social
media, engages people from all walks of life and joins progressive national
causes and represents our nation in a positive light in the global events she regularly
My primary goal is to complete
my Ph.D in the next 12 months, after which I will immediately focus on
publishing findings from my research. I will also launch into my career by
applying for a post-doc, research or an academic position, whichever comes first.
I also plan to start working on a consultancy which will focus on preventing on
minimizing exposures in health care workers. At a broader public health level,
I would love to be involved in research on how skin-lightening chemicals affect
women of African descent. I would also like to be involved in the dialogue,
Africa-wide, about Sustainable and Renewable energy.
I recently started a blog (www.africabookreview.com) which will launch sometime
later this year, where I plan to review books written by African authors, and
these will mostly be non-fiction and focused on policy-making, leadership,
social reform and related topics. Naturally, my primary interest will be how
all these things affect the African Woman’s life.I plan to have guest
bloggers/reviews from time to time.
Some years ago, some friends and
I founded a group, Botswana Ph.D Student Network, which is currently only
online (facebook). It is our hope that in the next five years the group will
grow beyond virtual presence and move offline to assist potential and current
Ph.D students especially from Botswana.
I am also a budding social entrepreneur
and I believe this is going to be something that develops more and bears fruit
in the next five years.

In terms of challenges for
women, we should acknowledge that some strides have been made in some of the
African countries. An example of this is how Rwanda has the highest number of
women who are parliamentarians, in the whole
entire world
. Of course whether this translates to policies that actually
improve women’s lives on the ground is another question altogether.
On the other hand though there
are still gross violations against women in some countries within the
continent. As an example, just these past few weeks (from the beginning of May
2016), we had a situation in Botswana where a male in a position of national leadership
was alleged to have impregnated a 16 year old girl.The country’s legal
document, the Child Act, states that children under 18 should be protected and
it is illegal to have sex with someone below 18. Another document talks of
defilement if the girl/boy is under 16 years of age. This sparked a movement,
identifiable online by the hashtag #IShallNotForget, by women and men who stand
against sexual abuse of children- both boys and girls. Many women came out
publicly to share stories of how they too were sexually abused when they were
young by cousins, biological fathers and step fathers and friends. The Minister
of Education also released statistics showing that in the past year over 400
female students had had to drop out of primary and secondary schools primarily
due to (teenage) pregnancy.
It is common knowledge that
within Africa, Botswana is one of the better-off countries in terms on economic
performance and other indicators. So, if violation of the girl child seems to
be at this high a rate in a country that is doing relatively well economically,
how about in poorer countries poorer? It has been shown that the poorer women
are, the harder it is to negotiate and defend themselves against violence,
including sexual violence, within relationships – because their livelihood
depends on them staying in these relationships no matter how violent.
In essence, there are still societal
structures that inhibit women from self-determination. One way of assisting
women is to guide them to resources of education, not just book-smarts, but
attaining consciousness and a vivid knowledge of the self. This is one of the
reasons why I will be publishing a guide to applying for admission and                               scholarships. I
understand that this may not be readily available to everyone due to lack of
access of technology, but even if it gets accessed by a few people, it surely
is better than nothing.  
When I am not working on my dissertation, I am either
spending time with my family; working on one of my blogs or developing my business.
I also love to read, and I like reading books outside my field, just to help
broaden my understanding. Other than that, I have a 17 month old baby, and he
likes the outdoors, so we hang out at the playground sometimes. I also love to
play scrabble via the facebook scrabble app.
MY   –  
There is a
saying; “If you educate a man you educate an
individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).”
Some attribute this proverb to
Ghana, some credit another source. Wherever the saying came from it captures
what could potentially happen if the African woman, was ‘Inspired, Celebrated
and Empowered’! Not just quoting this, but putting structures and resources on
the ground for women to be educated –all forms on education.
I would stick with my field of “Occupational and
Environmental Health”. There are workplace hazards where women are more
vulnerable than men, for instance, in radiology departments, pregnant women
should be furloughed from any work that could
potential expose them to radiation during their pregnancy, as this can
negatively affect the foetus. There are many instances where these
considerations have to be made, and I would assist with the policy-making
aspect of this.
There is a book I recently read, written
by Peter Thiel and it’s entitled, ‘Zero to One’. One of the quotes from the
book that I really love says, “The most
contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”

I would say learn to think for yourself, ask yourself questions, even if they
are difficult to answer. Ask yourself; what is it I believe about myself, where
did I learn that and why? Does it work for me? Can I change it? How can I
change it? And of course, how can I make Africa better?
I believe that the quest for freedom and
happiness begins with a thought…!Think, Think, Think and act!
Thank you PAW, for this wonderful privilege,
please keep up the great work.