Skills acquisition key to empowering women


Windhoek – The Pan-African Women’s Organisation Southern African Region (PAWO-SARO) has singled-out skills acquisition as key to empowering women at grassroots level for them to be able to participate in decision-making in political, economic, cultural and social spheres, both at national and international level.

The executive secretary of PAWO Southern Africa Region, Mildred Nontobeko Jantjies, says that despite many international agreements affirming to advance women issues, “women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate”.

“They usually have less access to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment and they are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence,” she says.

Jantjies further notes that 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. 

PAWO, she says, seeks to identify groups of women who are most marginalised and vulnerable such as female refugees or those women who are heads of households or living in extreme poverty, so that interventions address their specific needs and concerns.

“Empowerment of women is important in reducing poverty in the country, especially at the grassroots level since women play a vital role in the welfare of the household as well as the community.

“One of the core objectives of Pan-Africa Women Organisation is to ensure that the socio-economic enhancement and empowerment of women folk at national level is replicated at the states and local government level,” she says.

Jantjies adds that: “When women are supported and empowered, all of the society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient.” 

The PAWO executive secretary firmly believes that, “empowering women to be agents of change is an essential element to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. 

Wherever we work, our programmes aim to support women and build their capacity”.

She emphasises that PAWO-SARO will work closely with relevant stakeholders to provide women in agriculture easy access to credit, adequate training and instilling in them the importance of saving, adding that the women organisation will try to come up with programmes that will encourage women to engage in income-generating activities.

“We will focus on rural women in SADC region, who are highly dependent on subsistence agriculture to feed their families; and who often get caught in the cycle of poverty and hunger due to lack of access to adequate land and water, agricultural inputs, credit, technologies and training, often keep them caught in a cycle of poverty and hunger,” she says.

PAWO-SARO will further attempt to address the issue of gender equality, whereby women are encouraged to take challenges and compete with men.

“The Namibian government has endorsed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and it is up to us to see to it how can we empower ourselves to take fit to those position,” she says. 

PAWO is a women's organisation that was founded in 1962 in Tanzania, a year before the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union, and has played a significant role in building African unity and solidarity among women during a crucial period in the struggle for political emancipation.

April 2014
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