In March next year this newspaper will be 3 years old and boy what a journey it has been. At no time during this journey did I appropriate the sacred privilege assigned to what can be described as private thoughts on public issues or attempted to pen my thoughts at publisher.
Typically publishers don’t engage the public. We remain behind the scenes and trust a team of professionals to make it happen, in our case week after week.
But then the occasion of the relatively unknown Namibian Women’s Day made its annual appearance to be commemorated on Monday along with Human Rights Day.
So it made sense for me to put pen to paper hoping to reflect on our achievements in regards human and women rights as a nation.
The 2018 Human Rights Day will make 70 years since the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights. Human rights are basic freedoms and rights one enjoys from birth until death.
Namibia was the first state to sign the Gender and development protocol in the SADC region. 2010 launched the Decade of the African women until 2020. We are two years short of realizing the 2020 goal and it may be time to think about where women and girls are and how these instruments translate into better outcomes for rural women, adolescent girls and young women, differently-abled women, career women and all things in between.
This too is relevant when we talk about the right to a name and identity as two of an individual’s fundamental human rights. A name defines who you are and can prescribe a way of life. Children do not exist unless they are registered.
In the same way, when we speak about human rights and the girl child, many girls are invisible.
In our country not all births are registered yet.
Therefore, the invisibility of the rural, marginalized and sometime off-track girls on the national discourse is still worrisome. What does it mean to be a Namibian girl or woman in terms of her owning agency to contribute to the Namibian agenda?
Though gender discrimination under the common law is illegal; issues of inheritance and land ownership continues to plague many women in our country.
When we speak of the land issues, often women are not showcased as equal partners and landowners unless with the male attachment. Furthermore, the insufficient funding to implement progressive policies makes it difficult to see a tangible change in the lives of Namibian women.
Namibia of course has made brilliant strides as regards political participation and gender parity at the national level of women. This was recognized and celebrated through the ‘Gender is my Agenda’ Award. We have competent and capable women in decision making spaces in civil society, the private sector as well as in government.
We have seen the great impact and value derived by investing in positioning women to lead.
More needs to be done though to enhance the meaningful participation of women in the leadership spaces.
All the time we must ask ourselves, who is not in the room?
And why are they not in the room or the discourse and can we remove or limit the barriers of meaningful participation? Gender mainstreaming across all industry and sector cannot only be lip service. Economic emancipation needs to be further accelerated across the heterogeneous strata of women and not limit it to the urban few.
We need to call out the violent terms, attitudes, and norms that continue to erase women from the national dialogue on strategic issues and bring ALL to the table as equal partners to build a different Namibia.
Let us pen our own narrative, stories, and experiences.