Gender and Religion

The creator and original being in Tswana traditional cosmology is often described as Modimo. However, this is also the more general term for ancestral spirit and is more accurately described as the traditional Tswana term for the many ancestral spirits based upon family and kinship networks. Christianity entered Tswana social and religious life with the appearance of European and African missionaries from the south, the most notable including Robert Moffat and his son-in-law Dr. David Livingstone. During the latter part of the 19th century, Christianity was firmly established among the Tswana in the form of the London Missionary Society and the Dutch Reformed Church. More contemporary religions have been adopted by the Tswana, including the Zion Christian Church and other smaller Zionist and apostolic churches.

Today, the large majority of the Tswana population identify as Christian, with little differentiation by gender. During the missionary contact period, however, gender and religion became closely intertwined. Missionaries were particularly concerned with the idea of saving a "diseased and suffering" population and particularly focused on ideas about proper housing, with Western-style architecture and ablutions, health, and clothing among the Tswana (Comaroff & Comaroff, 1992). Ideologies of what was considered "civilized" and healthy were linked to Western-styles of dress, particularly the covering of female breasts and the wearing of cotton and wool clothing instead of animal skin vestments (Comaroff, 1993). Missionaries sought to change ideologies of gender and labor and emphasized women's appropriate roles within the realms of home and family and male roles as farmers and "breadwinners" (Comaroff, 1993)—roles that were considered more civilized and in turn more Christian.

Today, gender and religion remain linked, as many of the traditional spiritual healers in Tswana society are men, although many of the traditional midwives and those who help with reproductive disorders are women. Women in general are thought to be those most often practicing witchcraft, although stories of men practicing are also evident. Youths are particularly vulnerable to witchcraft as they do not have the knowledge or resources available to ward off malevolent acts. Witchcraft is generally considered to be a manifestation and product of another woman's jealousy, usually a close female relative such as one's aunt. Church leaders, as well as traditional healers called dingaka, are addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some of the traditional healers will say that it is not a Tswana illness and therefore cannot be cured through traditional herbal or spiritual means. On the other hand, some healers have argued that it is indeed a Tswana illness, akin to diseases caused by the transgression of certain taboos, and that they are capable of curing an afflicted person. Voluntary organizations, whose members are largely women, have grown in the past several years in Botswana, to assist and attend to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and today many organizations and church outreach groups are focusing on the plight of AIDS orphans in particular.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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