• Wednesday, October 1, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    POLITICS- NAMIBIA: Numbers of Women in Government Declining

    By Brigitte Weidlich
    WINDHOEK, Namibia, Dec 28 (IPS)
    Twenty years after independence, representation of women in senior
    government structures and in Parliament is declining in Namibia.
    According to the latest demographic survey results of August 2010, out of
    a
    population of around 2 million, women outnumber men 10:9. In 2001, the
    ratio
    was 94 males per 100 females.

    In 2010 Namibia reformed its national gender policy in line with the
    United
    Nation’s millennium development goals (MDGs) and its own Vision
    2030, a
    national development policy dissected into five-yearly development plans.
    It
    includes the increase of women in decision-making positions in government,
    the private sector, religious groups and community institutions.

    However, following the 2009 November national elections women's
    representation in Parliament declined from 30.8 per cent to 20 per cent.
    Only
    16 women are now Members in the National Assembly, which has 72 elected
    seats.

    Fifteen of the women in Parliament are from the ruling South West Africa
    Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) party, among them five Cabinet ministers and
    four deputies. Only two women MPs are from opposition parties. The Deputy
    Speaker is a woman. Cabinet representation of women stands at 22.7
    percent.

    Namibia ratified the 2008 Protocol on Gender and Development of the 15-
    member regional blocking 2009, but only six other states followed suit.

    While SADC already targeted 30 percent women in decision-making positions
    by 2005, the 2008 Protocol strives to achieve 50 percent of women in such
    positions in the public and private sector by 2015.

    This target is in line with that of the African (AU) Union. At the current
    slow
    pace of gender transformation in the political arena, SADC might not reach
    this goal in five years.

    The Protocol is only enforced once two-thirds of all the applicable
    countries
    ratify it. Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zimbabwe
    have deposited the instruments of ratification with the SADC Secretariat,
    while DRC and South Africa have almost completed the process.

    At the annual SADC summit in the Namibian capital of Windhoek in August
    2010, the communiqué issued afterwards said heads of states noted on
    the
    Gender Protocol "that the overall situation is generally varied with
    some
    member states recording improvement while others are regressing. The
    Summit urges member states to ratify and implement the Protocol."

    Jo-Ann Coetzee, Gender Project Assistant at Women's Leadership
    Centre,
    wants more to be done. "I think here in Namibia women are still not
    given the
    value that they deserve. We are still overlooked and seen as
    unimportant," she
    says.

    Namibia’s Gender Equality and Child Welfare Minister, Doreen Sioka,
    wants a
    speedy implementation of the Gender Protocol. "Our country started
    off well,
    but its women’s representation in parliament has gone down to 20 per
    cent. I
    am optimistic we can still reach the 50 per cent women’s
    representation goal
    in parliament and other public institutions come 2015" – which
    is when the
    next national elections in Namibia take place.

    The ruling party’s Women’s Council has already demanded a
    50:50
    representation in the party’s hierarchy like the Politburo and its
    central
    committee come 2012 – the next Swapo congress.

    Even Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was disappointed with the
    under-representation of women on his Swapo party list for the November
    2010 regional and local authority elections.

    Veronica de Klerk, Executive Director of the local Women’s Action
    for
    Development (WAD) organisation sees the decline in women’s
    representation
    as stemming from political parties low listing of women candidates.
    "It should be made compulsory for all parties to introduce an
    alternate listing
    system of women on party lists with men, meaning a 50:50 share or zebra
    listing" says De Klerk.

    In the Namibian Cabinet the ministers for justice, finance, gender
    equality/child welfare, home affairs and environment/tourism are women and
    four women are deputy ministers in the health, defence, gender equality
    and
    regional development portfolios.

    But have they made their mark? Finance Mister Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila-
    Kuugongelwa, who was appointed in 2003, reduced national debt and the
    budget deficit considerably during her term in office. The tax regime was
    also revised and the Financial Intelligence Act was drafted and
    promulgated
    to curb money laundering and fraud.

    Dianne Hubbard of the Legal Assistance Centre's Gender Research &
    Advocacy Project in Namibia thinks major laws have been passed since
    independence twenty years ago.

    The Local Authorities Act of 1992 requires that over 30 per cent of
    candidates
    on every party list for local elections must be women. "This law has
    worked
    very well with over 42 per cent of local council members being
    women," says
    Hubbard.
    Regional Councils, where there is no legal requirement for affirmative
    action,
    consist of only about 11 percent of women.

    The Traditional Authorities Act of 1995 also requires traditional
    authorities to
    promote women to positions of leadership, Hubbard points out.

    The Combating of Domestic Violence Act of 2003 was the result of strong
    advocacy by women’s groups. Some 250 people demanded a law on this
    issue at the opening of Parliament in 2003. "To help put these laws
    into
    action, Namibia has created 16 Women and Child Protection Units, covering
    every region in Namibia," she notes.

    Before Independence, married women in Namibia were not allowed to buy or
    sell their own property, register land in their own names, take out a loan
    or
    be a director of a company or a trustee without the consent of their
    husbands.

    The Married Persons Equality Act changed this in 1996 and wives now have
    the same rights as their husbands.

    home | top