Women Under Siege

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Namibian supplement to the State of World’s Children 2007 says entrenched views that women play second fiddle in society is holding back the nation’s development. This is because women who constitute more than half of the population are unable to contribute and participate. With some nine years to go before achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Namibia faces enormous challenges especially regarding MDG 3, which is about achieving gender equality and empowerment of women. The theme of the report is “Women and Children: The Double Dividend of Gender Equality”. The supplement, which was launched yesterday during the celebrations of UNICEF’s 60th anniversary, highlights gender-based violence, the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls and gender inequality in political participation as manifestations of a deeply rooted belief among both men and women that women are meant to take secondary roles in society. Prime Minister Nahas Angula said of all forms of discrimination and inequality manifested in society, gender based violence is the most extreme. To achieve MGD 3, Angula said, the country should pay special attention to female-headed households who are among the poorest, illiteracy among females which holds them from gainful employment, discriminatory beliefs that deny them access to health care, and children of poor and illiterate women who suffer greater consequences of ill health and early death from preventable diseases. Although these are the most critical issues, which need to be changed for Namibian women and girls to realise their rights, Namibian society is also dogged by inheritance rights, property grabbing against widows and orphans, poor maternal health, lack of access to productive employment and other forms of discrimination against them. Of the three issues, gender-based violence stands out as the most serious manifestation of society’s attitude towards the physically weaker sex, adds the publication. Police statistics indicate that cases of rape have increased from 550 in 1991 to 1 150 in 2005 with targets being women of all ages, from infants to elderly pensioners. The publication says based on reports, women and girls across Namibia are under siege not only in their homes but also at schools, hostels, streets and workplaces.

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