At a woman in leadership luncheon, hosted by the Finnish Embassy, resounding emphasis was placed on the need for women to support each other to curb gender inequality.
The visiting Finnish Speaker of Parliament, Maria Lohela told a select group of Namibian women making strides in various industries in the country that in order for small countries such as Namibia and Finland to succeed, it is important that both male and female citizens are given the opportunity to contribute. She further lauded Namibia’s sense of community as an advantage towards bridging gender gaps and positioned that male support is equally important to the cause.
In attendance was her Namibian male counterpart, Professor Peter Katjavivi who commended the media for placing gender equality on the Namibian agenda translating into the country being ranked as 14thth most gender equal country in the world according to the global gender ranks.
Katjavivi also spoke as a father and called Namibian men out on gender-based violence.
The Constitution of Namibia underwent amendments to increase the parliamentary seats from 72 to 104 in order to accommodate female representation resultant of political party’s adopting gender quotas in 2014. Furthermore, a 2017 empirical analysis on gender in Namibia by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) posits that at least 50.3% of the economically active workforce are female. Hence, not only are women the backbone of the Namibian economy but constitutionally a problem has been identified motivating the need for affirmative action seeking to bridge gender gaps in Namibia.
Challenges to gender equality in Namibia include patriarchy, cultural practices, unsupportive women attitudes, lack of information, poor confidence in women as well as a lack of education but to mention a few. Considering how well Namibia is doing when it comes to women representation in politics, a concern raised at the event was the absence of women participation in private sector leadership.
Well-known businesswoman, Ally Angula, said whilst she is fortunate to have penetrated male dominated affluent positions from a tender age, but the reality is that she sits on various corporate boards as a lone-wolf.
“Is it a lack of ambition, drive or skills? Or is it that women are just failing to empower each other” she questioned.
Angula concluded that it is a combination of a lot of factors and as such urged women in leadership to mentor younger women and girls.
The Patriot interviewed Seno Namwandi, a board member at the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA).
Namwandi said the biggest challenge she faces are her own insecurities on merit and impact. She adds that “most times, the battle is in one’s mind regarding perceived, implied or direct limitations which can be challenging as it takes ones focus off the matters at hand. Additionally, the challenge I’ve experienced is deliberateness of creating appropriate relations with the male counterparts. Appropriate, professional boundaries must be deliberately created and enforced. At times one can be naive that these boundaries are no brainers, but I came to learn that it takes a conscious effort to establish and maintain boundaries. The onus lies with you as the woman”.
Namwandi further opined that it is important for women to be shrewd when it comes to self-empowerment as well as prioritise empowering other women because the prerogative for gender equality is constitutionally mandated. She also posits that there is a need to promote women participation in strategic decision making such as serving on boards, whether private or public.
Kaunapaua Ndilula, MD of NamPro Fund is currently serving on the National Planning Commission board and has previously served on the BIPA board. Ndilula advised women to apply for board positions and encouraged women to deliver just like their male counterparts.
Official statistics shared with this publication indicate that male representation on public (SOE) boards stands at 56% whilst female representation is 44%. The ministry has compiled a manual database for both potential male and female applicants and for the current Board of Directors.
According to the said database, the current status quo is that more males are still applying for Board of Directors vacancies. This reality enunciates the need for more deliberate intervention to be put in place to ensure that more females apply for Board of Directors vacancies going forward.