Nam women lobby for more representation
Windhoek – Although Namibia is party to various international gender instruments, including the AU Charter on Persons’ and Human Rights and the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, gender inequality persists.
Women are the majority in Namibia, but they are still poorly represented in parliament and other top civil service positions.
With the country gearing up for 2014 general elections, the government has taken a giant step to redress the situation after a high-level conference held in Walvis Bay at the weekend.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, in conjunction with the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, organised the conference on women in politics and decision making in Namibia.
Among others, delegates shared experiences on how to advance gender equality at political level, legislation and leadership in general. It further aimed to equip women in leadership and decision making positions with requisite skills (in assertiveness, and lobbying) that are necessary for self and collective advancement.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Erastus Negonga, said it is high time Namibia walks the talk when it comes to gender equality and women empowerment.
“It is in the light of low numbers of women representation that there is a need for political parties to come up with strategies to increase the number of women representation, which may include amendments to their constitutions and manifestos with the view of meeting the spirits of the Namibian Constitution and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development,” Negonga said.
Lawmakers, regional councillors, members of political parties and NGOs, including Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Namibia Institute of Democracy (NID) and Gender Links Namibia attended the conference.
International delegates included lawmakers from Zimbabwe and Tanzania, as well as representative from SADC Parliamentary Forum and IDEA International.
The conference precedes the launch of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign that aims at raising awareness on gender-based violence, as a human rights issue at local, national, regional and international level runs from November 25 to December 10, 2013.
Speaking to The Southern Times ahead of the launch, the co-ordinator for Gender Links Namibia, Sarry Xoagus-Eises, stressed that gender and sexual violence should not be treated as a “women issue” only. She said gender violence is an epidemic that hinders the establishment of peace and security.
“Because women and girls are the most common target of domestic violence, people think it is a women issue, but it affects all members of society.
“For example, addressing gender-based violence can take a toll on the economies because the cost incurred by the health and justice system in dealing with consequences of violence,” she said.
To achieve Millennium Development Goals, such as eliminating poverty and hunger, improving maternal and child health, and combating HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases, Namibia needs to address the issue of domestic violence against women and girls.
Xoagus-Eises said talk on gender-based violence has dramatically changed over the years, with issues of gender-based violence and violations of human rights now receiving the attention they deserve as critical human rights, health and development issues.
“I remember those years when domestic violence against women was regarded as a private issue, family matter and women were really suffering in silence. Women who experienced domestic violence and rape never used to tell anyone. This was either because of fear of abuser or shame.
“Those days, statistics on gender-based violence and rape were very low… not because they were not there but because women were not open to report such cases. The few that reported were told to go back home and learn how to be good wives to their husbands,” she said.
Throughout the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign, Gender Links and its partners will work to break this cycle of violence by helping survivors to heal, delivering care to victims of sexual assault, and by bringing women together for mutual support.