Women Must Stand Up, Be Counted

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

The South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) recently met with women of Namibia to discuss ways in which the local women can organise themselves in their diversity and act together for a better future.

The meeting, held under the theme “Women unite in action and act in unity for development”, was attended by prominent women in the country including the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda and her deputy Angelika Muharukua, Joan Guriras, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Petrina Haingura, leaders of women empowerment organisations such as the Executive Director of Women Action for Development Veronica de Klerk, and women leaders in business like Anna Thandeka-Gerbhart.

South African High Commissioner to Namibia Eunice Komane said the one-day meeting was about a sisterhood trying to share experiences and seek solutions to problems women face in society, especially poverty.

The time has come for Namibian women regardless of their backgrounds to voice their concerns and have their status in society improved, she said.

Minister Mungunda said women in Namibia remain disadvantaged in many different sectors.

Although those in rural areas account for 59 percent of those engaged in skilled subsistence work, they have unequal access to land, labour, agricultural services and assets, natural resources and employment opportunities. They are further under-represented in decision-making and leadership positions.

Because they are undermined at different levels, most women are engaged in petty trade and other informal sector activities while their male counterparts dominate activities with high profit margins.

To address that problem, Mungunda revealed that her ministry in collaboration with Pan-African Women Organisation (PAWO) is in the process of implementing a rural women economic empowerment programme.

A conference on rural women is scheduled before mid-year.

“This meeting with SAWID will give the ministry clarity on crucial issues beneficial to the development of rural women in Namibia,” she said.

SAWID General Manager Girlie Njoni said poverty carries the face of a woman mainly because of inequalities rooted from past years.

She said that women are poor and still have many responsibilities such as caring for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, the elderly and the sick.

Many governments have signed and ratified many international instruments, yet little has been done to change the miserable status of women in society.

“The need is to unite now and act for development. We need to unite now and fight these wars that are anti-development,” she urged local women.

While there are some cultural nuisances that guard against emancipation of women and also compromise development, Njoni told Namibian women to be vigilant.

“Women of Namibia should not be deterred, they can always start something and fight poverty in all its dimensions,” she said.

Another member of SAWID Bibi Kahn said the organisation has identified five dialogue programmes that Namibian women could also get involved in. These include poverty alleviation, racial integration, harnessing ICT, moral regeneration and promotion of BEE and its charters.

“Through our weekly meetings where we discuss burning issues of the time, women now embrace diversity and have learnt that survival is in the collective,” she said.

Speaking from experience as a woman, Kahn says creating dialogue among women removes all the fears, brings healing, breaks barriers and brings an ending to ignorance.

SAWID is an independent South African Women’s Platform committed to hearing the voice of every woman and to improving the status of women by engaging national governments, the private sector, civil society, (including non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations and donors) in partnership to shape community, provincial and continental agendas.

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