Women Emerge as Traditional Leaders

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By Surihe Gaomas RUNDU More and more Namibian women are taking over the reins of traditional leadership in the rural areas, where they are becoming agents of change. Viewing this as a positive development, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Doreen Sioka commended this trend saying she was impressed to see women being vested with traditional authority unlike before independence when this was simply unheard of. “I am happy to see women chiefs,” said Sioka during a brief interview with New Era. She had noticed during a two-week Outreach Programme of taking Parliament closer to the people that women are becoming agents of positive change within their areas. Recently, New Era spoke to three traditional headwomen of the Ncuncuni Constituency of the Kavango Region. During the interview they felt their role as traditional leaders is a meaningful way for them to make a contribution to the lives of the communities they serve. What makes their situation even more commendable is that none of them are being paid for this service as they are dong it voluntarily. Queen Angelina Matumbo Rebebe is currently in charge of the Sambyu tribe, while she delegates work to the women headmen. Among some of them from Rundu Rural West Constituency are Emilie Shikue for the Mavandje community, Veronika Hausiku of the Sharukue group who became headwoman last year and Runguro Mbangu of the Kauti community. It becomes apparent that they are willing to change the communities they serve for the better. Not only are they responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of the people, but they also make sure that their basic needs like water supply and food are met especially during trying times of the year or when there’s a poor harvest of the fields. When asked what qualities a headwoman should have, they answered that it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to handle a large group of people in one village. “If you are a leader you have to know how to cooperate with people. You should not get angry easily. You shouldn’t also drink alcohol in public or behave in a disgraceful manner,” said headwoman Shikue. As someone who is in an authoritative position your personality should be that of being well behaved and having integrity. As part of their tasks headwomen are required to collect tax from the villagers, which forms part of the Royal Palace. Every person who is older than 18 years is liable to pay tax, be it in cash or in kind. “It can be money, mahangu, goats, sheep, chicken – the amount of produce you have harvested,” explained Hausiku, adding that the money is then used for the collective benefit of everybody in times of drought or flooding. This is what is called the Communal Fund. In the olden days the Chief or “Hompa” collected the funds and distributed them equally to the people for them to survive the droughts. Headwoman Mbangu however notes that it’s sad that such trends are disappearing with time and there needs to a strong move towards preserving such noble traditions for the sake of the younger generation. The greatest challenge facing headwomen in the Rundu Rural West Constituency is the lack of water, and calls are being made for the drilling of more boreholes for people to have access to this natural resource.