Namibia: Rural Women Demand Tangible, Sustainable Empowerment

Windhoek — Rural women are calling on government to introduce laws and policies relating to the promotion of women’s political and socio-economic empowerment that are practical, sustainable and tangible.

According to delegates attending the 2nd Rural Women’s Parliament with Male Partners currently underway in Windhoek, this will result in the eventual dissapearance of harmful gender stereotypes. A total of 41 delegates are meeting in the National Council chambers in the capital. The meeting, which ends today is deliberating and debating

issues that affect ordinary women in Namibia, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), maternal health care and women’s empowerment. Speaking at the opening session, on Tuesday, the chairman of the National Council, Asser Kapere, said the role women play in their community has often been seen as inferior, while in reality women carry the highest responsibility of providing basic necessities such as food, water and firewood for their households. “Still it remains that their role as care providers for their families is eroded by the lack of services and infrastructure in rural areas,” said Kapere. In addition, he said women face the highest risk of falling victims of economic deprivation, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, maternal mortality and harmful cultural practices.

“It is an open secret that where these challenges and calamities persist, the conditions under which rural women carry out their responsibility to provide for their families and communities is physically and mentally unbearable,” added Kapere. According to Kapere equality is about women and men’s rights. “It is about responsibilities and opportunities and it should not depend on whether one is born male or female. Gender equality indicates that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration,” stressed Kapere.

First lady, Madam Penehupifo Pohamba, who was the keynote speaker at the opening of the conference said economic inequality is a major problem experienced by women, and added that even though the country’s laws guarantee gender equality, women are still held back by social and cultural barriers. She said they key to dealing with this and other challenges is to educate and teach people that living in a society that advocates and promotes gender equality is essential for the full realisation of development. “We need to provide grass root communities with advocacy training to empower them to challenge inequitable social structures and to remove social and mental barriers that inhibit women’s aspirations,” said Pohamba. The Rural Women’s Parliament with Male Partners is the outcome of commitments made at the 56th United Nations session on the Commission of the Status of Women of 2011. The National Council women’s caucus hosted the first rural women’s parliament with male partners in September, 2012.
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