‘Women, speak for your rights to land’
Windhoek –Namibian First Lady, Madam Penehupifo Pohamba, has called for unity among women in Namibia, saying they need to speak out about their rights to own land.
Madam Pohamba said though women keep on telling the same tale that it is them who look after the land and work it to produce food, yet they lack secure rights to land.
“In most cases, they are denied equal rights to inheritance, but they are not doing anything to secure land for themselves.
“Maybe people don’t know that we also need land for ourselves, on our own name that one day can be inherited by our daughters because we don’t speak up,” she said.
Although the Namibian Constitution recognises equal land rights for women and men, Madam Pohamba pointed out that effective implementation of laws and policies remains a major challenge, adding that in some societies, traditional customs are restricting and limiting women’s rights to land.
She said women need to make their voice heard in order for lawmakers and policymakers and other stakeholders, to support their call, which in end lead to adoption and effective implementation of laws, policies and programmes that respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights to land.
Land, Madam Pohamba stressed, is one of the keys to building better lives and equality for poor rural women in the Namibia.
Yet in many places, women’s rights to land tenure are still not recognised or respected.
“It is still mostly male members of the family who apply for allocation of communal land, and it is still males who are most often treated as heads of households, while women are still struggling under the triple shift of paid work, unpaid housework and unpaid child care,” she said
In situations where women are guaranteed land rights, “they are better off and able to provide for themselves and their families’ needs – from food security to income, health and education”.
“Access to land will enable women to improve their welfare and that of their families. Women’s capacity to develop and improve their situation is hampered by limited access to resources like land, financial capital, economic capital, labour and technology,” she said
“We need to continue to promote women participation in public leadership roles as well as their equal status in the family.
“We need to provide grassroots communities with advocacy training to empower them (women) in order to challenge inequitable social structures and to remove social and mental barriers that inhibit women’s aspirations,” she said.
Madam Pohamba, the wife to Namibia’s second President Hifikepunye Pohamba was speaking during the opening of the Second Women Rural Parliament at National Assembly on January 4.
The women parliament session aimed to review progress and identify gaps, and agree on actions to empower rural women.
The women parliament also discussed issues of financing gender equality and women empowerment initiatives, along with the emerging issue of engaging young people in advancing gender equality and elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
It further called for urgent action to improve lives of millions of rural women. The three-day session that will ended on January 6, was organised by the National Council Women Cauca’s and all the 14 political regions were represented by two women.
Chairperson of National Council, Asser Kapere, said rural women constitute a fourth of the world's population. They are leaders, producers, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
He said in Namibia women, particularly those from grassroot communities, have always been perceived to be subordinate to their male counterparts, similarly the roles they play in their society have often been seen as inferior.
“Although women embody a prominent potential for poverty alleviation and increased food security, their function and contributions in the rural set-up is hardly recognised,” he said.
Kapere pointed out that multiple challenges facing rural women cannot be addressed from a social, economic and health perspective only but it is imperative to equally incorporate elements of gender equality and participatory democracy.
“The calling for women economic empowerment and gender equality is not just a woman issues.
The challenges must be addressed by both men and women as equal partners,” he said.