Pull Her Down!

‘Women don’t trust each other’

Q: What are the priorities for the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare for this financial year?

A: Gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Therefore, a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.
Women's empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realisation of human rights for all. In this financial year, we have three major priorities to focus on.
First is to promote gender equality and child welfare. This is because of SADC Protocol on Gender whereby we are being expected to meet the 28 targets including 50 percent women’s representation in decision making process and 2015 is our deadline.
Namibia will hold national elections by 2014 and we are busy strategizing on how to spread the message of gender equality. We want to make sure that women in rural areas get the message about the importance of gender equality and how can they stand up for leadership positions both local level, regional or at the national levels.
The second priority is women’s economic empowerment. Empowering women economically is essential both to realise women’s rights and to achieve broader developmental goals such as economic growth, poverty reduction, health, education and welfare.
Addressing women’s issues also requires recognising that women are a diverse group, in the roles they play as well as in characteristics such as age, social status, urban or rural orientation and educational attainment.
Through this target, we want to empower our women entrepreneur so that they can have courage to stand and compete with men in business.
Putting resources into poor women’s hands while promoting gender equality in the household and in society results in large development pay offs.
In this country the representation of men in business outnumber women and the fact is that only few women are successful entrepreneurs.  The third priority is the fighting of gender based violence including baby dumping. In this regard we want to use young people to speak to the peers especially on the issue of baby dumping.
The ministry is also planning to establish the baby shelters so that instead of dumping babies we can encourage the mothers to drop them at those shelters so that we can look after them.
Let me just make it clear here that our aim is not to encourage baby dumping but the save the innocent babies at the same time growing our population.

Q: Gender equality has become a talking point not only in SADC but Africa in general. What are some of the strategies Namibia is using to promote gender issues?

A: The most effective strategies and approaches for supporting gender equality constitute empowerment and gender mainstreaming.
Another important area of focus has been capacity-building for institutions in order to enable them to incorporate a gender equality perspective in their work. We at the ministry realized when it comes to gender equality the best people to deal or to assist in this regard  are the political parties.
We wrote them letters reminding them to include women in their leadership by amending their constitutions or just to include a clause within their constitutions so that together we can push towards this goal.
Some of the political parties responded. For instance during our national conference (SWAPO) last year, gender equality was one of the main topics discussed and now with the upcoming Extraordinary Conference the issue of gender equality going to be the topic of the day.
We also made submissions to cabinet so that the line ministries as well as the local authorities come up with policies that will address the issue of gender equality. In addition, we are busy educating girls, increasing literacy rates among women, increasing early childhood development interventions and increasing women’s labor force participation and strengthening labor policies affecting women.
We work hard to promote women’s political rights and participation as well as expanding reproductive health programs and family support policies.

Q: Do you think Namibia will achieve the targets set out in the SADC Protocol on Gender, such as 50 percent representation of women and men in politics and decision-making by 2015?

A: We have mixed feelings but I am optimistic that we are getting there, even if it is not 50/50. I don’t want to discourage people that’s why my answer is yes we can.
But we only can if for the next six months we keep working hard by capacitating women to stand up and vote for other women in 2014.
We are arranging meetings with men because they are our partners in achieving gender equality. I observe that there are still men that are not happy with the issue of 50/50 and they think it’s not necessary.
We need to encourage them in order to have a mind-shift that women are not just objects or second subjects to men but they also make good leaders.
Women are more close to the society. There is a saying that if you want to improve the living standards of the society, give a chance to women. We know how to penetrate our communities and listen to their problems and find solutions to those problems. Most of our male leaders are not close to their communities as they are supposed to be. They don’t know what is happening in their communities. It is us women that feed them with this information.

Q: What other challenges that might delay the achievement of ther SADC gender equality targets?

A: Many reports still show that female voters remain reluctant to vote for their fellow women. Women are jealous of each other – they don’t trust each other. There is what we call a PhD syndrome which means “Pull Her Down”. This is a serious syndrome that is in the mind of women.
We are not voting for each other, we don’t even campaign for each other. We campaign against each other.
Addressing gender equality should start with women themselves. I urge women to respect each other and stop being jealous of each other because the thing is not about positions but how that person will contribute to the society and the county.

Q: What is your take regarding assertions that nothing much has been done about gender equality and women empowerment, that women in Africa continue to be oppressed as their male counterparts remain in charge?

A: I think that’s just a perception. For instance, many people claim nothing has been done to empower women without knowing what the Ministry has done so far.
If you go to the regions and you can see what those women who received grants from us are doing. You will be impressed. Some of the women got tenders to make clothes for big companies such as Woolworths Stores and they are making quality products.
I really don’t agree with such assumptions.  If you look across the continent, political will from the male dominated leadership is there.  That’s why they created in most of Africa countries the ministries of gender equality.
It depends on us who are in the Ministry; how can we include other partners to empower women to be on par with men. We need to work hard at the grassroots so that they (women) can understand themselves and role of the political leadership in the society.

Q: If you go through the media, a day hardly passes without reports of violence committed against women and children. What is your Ministry doing to curb gender-based violence in Namibia?

A:  Namibia is part of the 16 Days awareness campaign. It has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and groups across the globe to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels.
Apart from that, this year we met with our stakeholders, who include the Ministry of Safety and Security, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Home Affairs on how best can we address the issue of gender-based violence.
We also had a dinner with women Parliamentarians and female spouses of foreign ambassadors and high commissioners in Namibia. We want to come up with programmes whereby we try to use community members as well as young people against gender-based violence by educating their peers.
People in the community know each other more than the Ministry ever can. We also want to use the victims and motivational speakers in curbing gender-based violence in Namibia.

June 2013
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