Astoundingly, there are still men who question what the fuss is about women’s day, gender equality and quotas. Rights, the fuss is about basic human rights inaccessible to the female gender. So, pressing for progress this year should mean sensitizing male ignorance on gender inequality and actively partnering with men willing to be activists for gender equality.
It is true that Namibia has a lot to celebrate in its progress towards gender equality because the country is ranked 4th in Africa and 11th globally regarding gender parity at parliamentary level. However, an article in the February edition of the Insight Magazine titled “the least influential Namibians in 2017” lists women as least influential amongst the likes of Namibian Special Envoy on the Herero and Nama Genocide, Dr Zed Ngaviruhe, Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Paulus Noa, the Struggle Kids and the President of the Popular Democratic Movement, McHenry Venaani.
This article grouped an entire gender as being amongst the five least influential personalities in the country. It carried a sober celebratory tone stating that in 2017 girls outperformed boys academically across the board, whilst an ever-increasing number of prominent female leaders in government and business continued to provide valuable role models for younger women. Grimly it also rightly pointed out that “the Namibian society has not shaken off its patriarchal values, forcing women to fight for every small gain towards gender equality”. This article further mentioned gender based violence as a the most-talked about and least acted on issue in Namibia. What this article reflects is nothing but the truth and the realities on the ground because the fact that we still have cultural practices in the 21st century that marry off girl children in Namibia, Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh but to mention a few, shows how deep patriarchy runs. These children are married off to older men, not women so advocating for women’s rights needs men who will turn away from such harmful practices to be truly transformational.
It is important to understand that when it comes to advocating for women’s rights, men are as much a primary stakeholder as women. History tells us that whilst black people championed anti-slavery as well as anti-apartheid/ imperialism campaigns in the USA and many African countries. Their causes needed the help of white people to become the realities we know today. It was a white American President, Abraham Lincoln who abolished slavery in 1863 through the famous Emancipation Proclamation which was followed by the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution outlawing slavery in 1865.
To bring the narrative to the African continent, it was white European leaders that decided to end colonialism and grant African nations independence between 1945 and 1960.
It was also white Western leaders who eventually had to cave into the terms of resolution 435 and grant Namibia’s delayed independence in 1989. The point here is that to solve a problem, it is important to engage its source. Hence whilst black people have always fought for their freedom, it was vital that white people be emancipated and enlightened about their cause to align with them. Hence logic maintains that patriarchy is a root cause for gender inequality thus it is only fitting that we demystify notions that brand gender equality as a “women’s fight”. The truth is that advocating for gender equality does not mean men and women are fighting each other for a small sized pizza and men are fearful that sharing it equally with women means that they will not eat pizza to their hearts content! It is not a competition, nor does it mean women want to be men. Gender equality is the groundwork needed to level the playing ground for all girls who might potentially be married of young, have their genitals mutilated for the pleasure of men or must miss school because only condoms are freely available but not pads.
The list is exhaustive but the core message here is that gender equality is fundamentally a fight for human rights and it needs both men and women to regard it as such.