By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Irrespective of their social status in society, women are all equal and share the same experiences when it comes to domestic violence. Speaking during the International Women’s Day conference held in Mozambique and attended by four Namibian women leaders, wife to Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, noted that regarding domestic violence, women have all suffered the same. As such, women should have the political instruments to change the world. The 20th century had been a terrible century for the human rights of women, but there is still hope that women will change the 21st century so that it will be a bet- ter world for women to live in. During the conference, Executive Director for Women’s Action for Development, Veronica de Klerk, noted the importance of women from different countries to share ideas on common pressing social issues such as poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, violence and HIV/AIDS. She said: “Women in Namibia are very fortunate and should be thankful for having a gender sensitive government that has already passed important gender related laws which are improving the lives of the most vulnerable sections in society, including rural women.” However, there is a great need to forcefully bring the contents of gender-related laws more effectively to the people on the ground, through NGO’s, churches, higher learning institutions and youth movements, she said. Views shared by other countries during the conference, according to De Klerk, further reconfirmed that in tackling the women’s empowerment issue in a two-pronged manner, that is, to simultaneously empower communities in the socio-economic and socio-political fields of development to address poverty and gender imbalances in society, WAD’s programmes have contributed greatly towards training rural communities in confidence-building and on how to move successfully from the local and regional levels to the national level, through well-structured women’s voice bodies. Weighing up the initiatives of other countries which are being undertaken in the combating of gender based violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS, the programmes of WAD in this field, especially “determining the root causes of violent deeds against women and girls recently launched, as well as the production of two types of pelvic models to train communities in the use of the female condom, Femidom, proved to be both challenging and pioneering to other countries. At the conference, Inge Zaamwani, Managing Director of Namdeb, stated that the conference reconfirmed empirical evidence that the socio-economic and socio-political development was intrinsically intertwined with women’s empowerment therefore, without the full and meaningful participation of women, there can be no sustainable economic development in the country. She advised that what needs to be done in Namibia was to work closer together on a tripartite basis to ensure that the country moves towards realistic targets. “Women’s empowerment is too important a national issue to be left to the dominance of one sector or institution. “It cuts across the society; is multi-faceted and therefore, is everybody’s business,” she ended.