Women In Tourism Breaking The Glass Ceiling In Poling


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  • As Ker and Downey Botswana empowers women in guiding field

As more and more women continue to break the glass ceiling by going into areas originally known to be for men, two young ladies in the Delta are plying their poling trade in the busy tourism industry. The Ker and Downey duo have taken the swamps by storm, as torch bearer in taking clients (makgoa) for the most sort after experience, armed with specialist guide licences.

The two, Bontle Cindy Mothogaathobogwe and Bontle Beauty Tsele, are among the first female specialist mokoro guide polers in the Okavango Delta, employed by Ker and Downey at Shinde and Kanana respectively as first female poler guides for the company.

This has been a heavily male dominated field in different camps as it was unheard of for a female guide to take clients into the channels of the Okavango.

In fact, most of the safari camps in the Okavango Delta and elsewhere in Botswana have all-male guiding teams, while their female colleagues have been relegated to other duties as Chefs, waitresses, housekeepers and admin duties.

“Women today should know that whatever they wish to achieve in life, it is possible if they follow their passion, no job it too much for a woman to handle,” Mothogaathobogwe stated during an interview at Shinde.

She is the only female specialist guide-mokoro poler at Shinde, and equally competent at that. Bontle’s face lightens up every time she has to prepare for her next trip into the waters of the Okavango. However, on this particular, she was not taking makgoa in, but was taking a journalist for an interview.

“I’m a bit nervous as this a different from my day to day activities,” she calmly said as she searched for a perfect spot for the interview. She was to later smash the interview with the same confidence she has when rowing her mokoro in the swamps. Her Nkashi (the wooden pole she uses for poling) appears to be the source of her strength.

After all, she was born and bred in the delta, in a small village of Boro where mokoro is the backbone of their livelihoods and learnt poling at a younger age. It was her love for nature that propelled Beauty to make a career as a specialist guide.

Armed with the specialist guide mokoro licence she given an opportunity of a lifetime by Ker and Downey Botswana as a specialist guide, just after Covid-19, and she has never looked back. Her aspirations are to get a professional guides licence, which will allow her to do other guiding activities, among them game drives and walks.

Beauty’s dream is sure to be realised, as according to Ker and Downey Botswana Guides manager and trainer Thuso Rasegojwa the company intends to have first women guides in the Okavango Delta by end of the year.

The other star, and second female specialist guide mokoro is Bontle Beauty Tsele based at Kanana, who is also the only woman among men guides at the camp. Bontle, like her names’ sake at Shinde was born and bred in the Okavango Delta, at Xaxaba.

With a rich background in the Delta, where mokoro was not only a mode of transport, but also a source of livelihoods in the area, she got the inspiration to build a career in the tourism industry. She managed to secure the specialist guide, mokoro licence and landed a job with Ker and Downey Botswana in 2021.

“Ker and Downey is the first company to empower women in poling in the Okavango Delta, and I hope other companies will follow suit and empower more women in the guiding field,” she said. Bontle’s ultimate goal is to become a full professional guide, so that she can execute guiding at all levels.

Meanwhile Rasegojwa, heading the guiding team of Ker and Downey has revealed that employing the two female mokoro poler guides was the start of the company’s deliberate move to empower women in the otherwise man dominated field.

“Our goal is to have more women in guiding, and by the end of the year we hope to have women in our team and we will be the first in the delta to do so,” Rasegojwa said.


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