Corruption Battle – Where Are the Women?

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibian women have been slow and unassertive in meeting their responsibilities that would contribute to good corporate governance. At a recently held National Conference on Corporate Governance and Anti-Corruption, Women’s Action for Development (WAD)’s Veronica De Klerk indicated that Namibian women have unfortunately been slow in engaging in matters that are of national interest, but based on studies done by the World Bank, the representation of women in high positions such as parliament and other public offices correlates very well with lower corruption levels. De Klerk warned, “The very essence of the concept of democratic governance is missed if women do not enjoy equal representation, whether it be for their own making or not.” As a grassroots organisation, WAD has established regional ‘Women’s’ Voices’ bodies that act as mouthpieces for women in their respective communities especially in dealing with matters of empowerment. These groups then form part of the national ‘Women’s Voices’, which consult with decision-makers on issues of concern at the national level. Though the Anti-corruption Commission has been set up and tasked to receive, initiate and investigate allegations of corrupt practices, WAD’s executive director says stamping out corruption in Namibia should never be viewed by civil societies as the commission’s responsibility alone. Instead, every Namibian citizen has to assist the Commission for everyone’s benefit and as a contribution to good corporate governance. While President Hifikepunye Pohamba has defined corruption as the enermy of the poor, WAD has in the past 12 years of its existence penetrated the development of the rural poor through its programmes directed at uplifting the living standards of people. Though making these efforts, the organisation has been many times disappointed by stories of highly privileged people in society occupying front-runner positions but blatantly stealing millions of money that could be used to assist the poor. “The crime of corruption by people enjoying the luxuries of well-paid jobs, is unforgivable and should not be seen as nothing less than ruthlessly stealing from the poor to enrich themselves,” she strongly stated. Whilst the country is singled out in the world arena as one of those countries with the worst income disparities, the continuous incidences of corruption, it is feared, would make the gap even wider. “If Namibia were a wealthy country with low levels of poverty and unemployment and a good health status of its people, the impact of such white collar corruption would have less impact on the poor,” she added. Given this unfairness, it is just fair that Namibians play their role in fighting this social ill and act as watchdogs against the corrupt practices. “If we fail to do so, we should see ourselves as accomplices of such despicable deeds. Never be accused of contributing towards corrupt practices because of our silence regarding those practices,” she added. WAD has also called for the need to establish anti-corruption committees within the local and regional councils across the country that would act as the “eyes and ears” of the Anti-Corruption Commission.