Saturday marks another milestone in the life of our young nation. On this day, December 10, 1959, our people made sacrifices to deliver their own freedom. And unlike the struggles of yesteryear where men traditionally were the only ones on the frontlines, this time our mothers and sisters too stayed the course and paid the price. Indeed, December 10, 1959 marked a turning point in our national struggle after the German brutal military campaigns of 1904 and beyond that led to the mass slaughter of our people for resisting occupation and subjugation. On that day in 1959, a new chapter in the resistance struggle was opened. Namibians of all political persuasions resolved to resist the forced removal to modern day Katutura from what was then known as the Old Location. The Old Location uprising coincided with and added impetus to the political re-awakening of the time which saw new political formations starting with the South West Africa National Union (Swanu, 1959) and culminating with the Ovamboland Peoples Organisation (OPO, 1958) and ultimately the South West Africa Peoples Organisation (Swapo) in 1960. The formation of the first political party, Swanu was preceded by the creation of the Herero Chiefs Council, which assumed a political role in the absence of political parties in the country. In the chaos that followed, 11people were killed and scores of others injured. Those killed included Kakurukaze Mungunda, among other women and men. To honour the critical role that women played on this day, government has decided to dedicate Human Rights Day to Namibian women in recognition of their role in the making of the Namibian nation. And in keeping with this position, President Hifikepunye Pohamba will tomorrow pay tribute to present and past Namibian mothers for their contribution to the struggle and our nation’s welfare. Namibia has made significant strides in uplifting and empowering women over the past 15 years of independence. Important legal instruments that outlaw discrimination against women have been devised and are being implemented. Similarly, the issue of affirmative action for women constitutes an important segment of the drive to empower previously disadvantaged Namibians. Deliberate efforts are being made to bring as many women as possible on board. As a result, many women have found secure employment in the public and private sectors. Equally, women form the backbone of the subsistence agricultural sector. The ministry responsible for land reform has ensured that a significant number of women are resettled. At the political level, the country for the first time has a woman deputy prime minister. There are six women ministers out of 23 and five deputy women ministers. Perhaps this is not so good a picture, but the number of women leaders has increased significantly at both regional and municipal levels. It is important to note though that school enrolment for girls has been on a steady rise compared to that of boys. And it is from them that future leaders will emerge. At some schools including tertiary institutions, girls outnumber boys per class. For instance, statistics for 2002 indicate that 6 627 girls enrolled for grade 12 compared to 2 119 boys. The number of girls for grade 11 was also high at 6 738 compared to 6 617 boys. Interestingly, at Vocational Training Centres, which generally offer trades that “traditionally” discourage or disadvantage women, female enrolments have been increasing. Female enrolments in traditionally male occupational areas such as carpentry, joinery, welding, etc. have registered some growth. In 2003/4 for example, of the 2 627 trainees at VTCs, only 870 (33%) were female. In contrast, 503 (57%) of the 2 003 enrolled were female, where courses such as computer literacy, entrepreneurial development and needlework attract predominately female enrolments according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education. At the University of Namibia, by year 2004, women were roughly on a par with men in areas such as Agriculture and Natural Resources, Economics and Management and Law or significantly outnumbered men in Education, Humanities, Medical and Health Services. These are just a few examples and may not be very representative of women advancement in terms of education, but are a clear pointer to the successes that we continue to achieve. There are still many challenges though. Violence against women and children still haunts the conscience of our nation. We need to open up and provide more opportunities for women. We have to level up and allow more women leaders to emerge.
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