Gender inequality exists everywhere and Namibian society is no exception. Its presence is grotesque and boldly in our faces. One only needs to reflect on their own upbringing to see evidence of male dominance over women. Namibia has a parliament with at least 42% seats occupied by women, primarily due to the SWPO party enshrining quotas within its party constitution as of 2014. This is progress because contagion effects are possible in both the public and private sector consequent of this. And we could potentially see more opportunities for Namibian women arise in male dominated spheres of influence.
Perhaps it might not be the case for every household but many of us can relate to this trend where the girl child form an early age is taught to take care of the household chores typically reserved for women whilst the boy child is more often told men do not cry and they are only allowed to clean the yard and not prepare meals. With regards to education, some girls are encouraged to look for so called ‘feminine’ careers such as teaching and nursing whilst the boys are cheered on to become engineers and doctors. Not to mention the pressure that comes for the young lady post-graduation when female family members start asking when she will get married whilst in contrast the guy in his mid-30’s is cautioned to take his time because his future wife is not yet born. These are but some of the cultural realities we face in our societies. They are many and they differ per tribes and ethnicities, not to mention countries and continents but the point remains that the average Namibian girl child grows up smothered by male dominance. So, let us establish by way of discussion parameters that gender inequality is a problem because it denies women rights and privileges accorded to men and like all problems, it too needs to be addressed. Gender Inequality means that someone is discriminated against and disadvantaged at the expense of the other and it is usually the women and the girl child.
The factors leading up to that are ingrained in our societal walls by culture, traditions, religion and education.
That the woman is somewhat deemed inferior to the man is a predominant wrapped school of thought that so many women equally believe because no one ever told them that they too are just as capable as men and when they do get opportunities they are asked to prove they deserve them or are dismissed as tokens.
The causes of gender inequality as previously established are numerous and stretch across cultural values, traditions and socioeconomic structures. It suffices to say that gender inequality is a structural and systematic problem and thus resolving it requires structural change. Advocating for gender quotas means providing opportunities for women that they are entitled to but have been denied because of male dominance projected by culture, traditions, religion and education. This is because gender inequality needs to be addressed at policy level that targets systems and structures because the issue is itself structural in nature.
Hence gender quotas act as practical policy reforms that make special provisions for women to participate in spheres of influence where they could not previously participate in. If a problem exists within structures, then is suffice to argue that it should be dealt with structurally.
This is because it is about creating opportunities for women and reflects an acknowledgement of gender dominance, hence it aims to redress the situation. Gender quotas have thus far enabled women to sit in parliaments, board rooms of major companies, get educated and become innovative in many countries.
Yet gender inequality prevails despite these strides and the issue lies with the vast majorities made up of both men and women who reject the call for gender quotas primarily as well as their tight grip on usually cultural norms, tradition and religion. There are those who critique gender quotas based on tokenism and merit. An argument I daresay that is entirely off tangent. Tokenism condescendingly implies that opportunities availed to women because of gender quotas are a favour done to us.
The merit stance, where women’s qualifications and competences become the focus is equivalent to comparing onions to apples in my opinion. This is because there is no evidence that the absence nor presence of women in certain positions equates to a job well or poorly done.
Hence in the same vein it makes no sense to argue that women are not qualified for positions that they get due to gender quotas. A job well done is not dependent on a gender but ability and women are competent just as men are. If the United States of America is teaching us anything in 2017, let it be that competence is trumped by opportunity.
Overall it will take both man and women to overhaul the systems that allow women to be disadvantaged on all spheres of society.
It is vital to emphasize that the call for gender equality is not women saying they want to compete with men, nor is it about women wanting to be better than men either.
This is because both male and females are unique in their strengths and weaknesses hence narrowing such a harsh reality of gross disadvantages faced by women globally to as trivial an argument as competition and ego is why I advocate for gender quotas as an effective structural reform against gender inequality.
Rakkel Andreas is currently an MA Development and Governance candidate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
She holds an MA European and International Studies from Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE) in Nice-France as well as BA in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Namibia.
Rakkel Andreas is currently an MA Development and Governance candidate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. She holds an MA European and International Studies from Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE) in Nice-France as well as BA in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Namibia