The Women’s Action for Development(WAD) is one of the most prominent and recognizable women development organisations in the country. Women are such an integral part of the society that it comes as no surprise that it takes someone strong and ambitious to propel it forward. Mathias Haufiku spoke to WAD Executive Director Salatiel Shinedima.
What is the role of WAD in Namibia?
WAD’s role in Namibia is to empower Namibians, particularly women and unemployed youth, with skills that will enable them to access the labor market and knowledge that will enable to make them active and responsible citizens. Our objective is to complement government in its efforts to reduce unemployment and alleviate poverty.
If WAD is intended to advocate for the empowerment of women and to fight gender inequality, why is it that a man is heading it?
The appointment was done deliberately. We have been speaking of women empowerment and the issue of gender-based violence, but the problem is that women have been talking to each and that does not necessarily provide a solution-it[solution] lies in us men. When women talk to each other the voice of the men is silent and it creates an impression that men do not care about social justice and gender equality. As WAD we try to make people understand that the way we have been raised thinking men are more superior than women is not natural, because if culture tells us a man is the head of the house, it cannot be natural because we pick it up from society but that does not mean women cannot head a household. In most cases when women are empowered men see it in the light of being overtaken. Therefore we said there is need to appoint a man in this position that can advocate for women issues and the total empowerment of women and at the same time bring a male voice in female discussions. We all know that women and men cannot be equal in terms of nature, but in terms of responsibility we can be. Women have been sidelined for too long and confined to houses instead of the public space. If women continue talking to each other without involving men and vice-versa we will never get rid of gender inequality in Namibia.
Why does an organization like WAD matter in the 21st century?
As you are aware, we live in an unequal society that is based on patriarchy and cultural principles. A society where culture and patriarchy determines the way of life. A society that undermines the capability of women. A society that confines women to a private space (the house) as it has been over the years. Such society undermines the fundamental principles of democracy, equality and social justice. It undermines the principles of our constitution. Therefore it is important that we have, in such society an organisation like WAD to spearhead the agenda of gender equality and to assist government in achieving its gender equality goals. As you may remember WAD is one of the organisations that has been calling for a 50/50 gender representation in parliament. Even though we have almost reached the 50/50 representation in the National Assembly, it is important to note that women are underrepresented in the National Council, which should be a concern to every peace loving Namibian. WAD therefore call for 50/50 gender representation in both houses to become part of the electoral law. In light of the aforementioned, WAD will remain a relevant institution in Namibia for as long as gender inequality and unemployment prevail in our society.
Do you think we still need significant investment in women development?
Yes, we do, and I think we need to focus much of our investment on young girls. We need to start preparing them for leadership. We need to encourage them to take interest in Politics, and other positions of power while still at primary school.
What difference does WAD make in the Namibian society?
WAD places smiles on faces of many unemployed youth who have gone through our training and found jobs or started their own businesses. The difference we make in society, manifest itself in the confidence and trust that Namibians from all walks of life have in the services and information we provide to the nation.
During your discussions/dialogues with women in Namibia, what are the most common problems facing women in Namibia?
Gender based violence is the most common problem facing women countrywide. Gender inequality and discrimination is another key problem that women encounter especially in the workplace.
What are some of the challenges facing WAD?
Human and financial capacities are some of the key challenges facing the organisation. Albeit these challenges, the WAD team goes an extra mile to do their civic duty and serve the nation with pride. I am confident that our beneficiaries, friends, sympathisers and partners can testify to that.
Where to from here onwards?
WAD will continue growing from here, and the team with the strong support from the board is ready to face new challenges in the New Year.
In conclusion, I wish all the Namibians a blessed and accident free festive season. WAD urge all drivers to refrain from driving under the influence of alcohol and to respect the rules of the road. Do not speed, your destination is not running away from you. I believe that if we celebrate the festive season responsibly we will all enter the New Year safe and sound.