By Petronella Sibeene
While gender equality remains crucial in erasing persistent poverty in the country, under-representation of women and girls in decision-making and gender-determined salaries continue to be a stumbling block in achieving parity.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Sirkka Ausiku, in an interview with New Era yesterday revealed that even though both the public and private sector have succeeded in achieving the 30 percent women representation by 2005 as recommended by the SADC declaration of 1997 on gender and development, most companies continue to place women in lower positions.
A recent study on women representation in the private sector, found that out of the 82 companies that submitted information, 73 percent have reached the target while 27 percent do not adequately represent women.
While this sector has made great strides in reaching the target, there is still a large number of employment areas that underestimate women.
“Some institutions have failed to honour the provisions made in the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act No.29 of 1998 by incorporating women in their managerial positions,” said Ausiku.
The Permanent Secretary also stated that private sector boards are performing poorly with respect to including more women in their structures.
“Out of 52 companies that indicated they have board of directors, only 15 achieved the 30 percent target while the rest had no women representation”, she illustrated.
A similar study conducted last year found that, the Public Service has reached the SADC target of 30 percent by achieving 33 percent of women in management positions. However, parastatals achieved only 22 percent women in managerial positions while Board of Directors attained 29 percent thereby not reaching the SADC 30 percent target of 2005.
“This shows that women are under-represented in the senior management positions and in the Board of Directors of the Parastatals in Namibia. Most women in Namibian institutions continue to occupy lower positions in the public sector and parastatals”, the report shows.
Although progress made by some companies deserves recognition, Ausiku revealed that not much has changed at some companies as work considered to be feminine like in the past continues to be done by women with many of them in management positions.
This is exemplified by the clothing and hospitality sectors, which possesses the highest percentages of 83 and 50 respectively. Transport, retail and fishing sectors have the highest women under-representation.
Namibia gained independence with vast gender disparities in different spheres of life especially in decision-making .
Women had no voice and at the political level, they did not have the right to vote while culturally, they were subjected to male domination and socially, their status was low.
To achieve women emancipation, gender sensitive and responsive policies and legislation were introduced.
According to Ausiku, Government committed itself to rectifying the situation, after it witnessed the tremendous contribution that women had made during the struggle for independence.
The constitution, the adoption of the National Gender Policy, and the Affirmative Action Act (Employment Act No.29 of 1999) were all passed in Parliament to ensure that previously disadvantaged groups such as women, those living with disabilities and blacks without access to formal employment, are no longer discriminated against.
The Married Persons Equality Act No.1 of 1996 was also enacted to improve the legal status of married women at household level.
Equally, the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 empowered women to inherit land from their deceased husbands’ estate which they could not previously because of discriminatory cultural norms and practices.
The Combating of Domestic Violence Act No.4 of 2003 marked yet another step to consolidate the protection of women and children in society.
Despite these legislative pieces, Namibian women remain under-represented in the crucial political and other decision making structures at all levels, a problem identified as critical at the global, regional and national levels.
“Most women in Namibian companies continue to occupy lower positions. All sectors need to successfully work towards incorporating more women into decision-making positions,” she said.
She added, findings of this study would be forwarded to the Employment Equity Commission (EEC) for action to be taken against culprits who fail to recognize the role of women in the development of Namibia.
A similar study will be conducted in 2009.