By Charles Tjatindi
The Executive Director of Women’s Action for Development (WAD), Veronica de Klerk, has expressed disappointment at the lack of women representation in some top government positions.
Citing the Erongo Regional Council, which has an all-male councillor representation, the WAD executive director noted that it was high time women took up positions of influence not only in the central government, but also at regional and constituency levels.
De Klerk made the remarks when she addressed a special session of women leaders here on Tuesday. The gathering, which was mainly attended by women representatives from non-governmental organisations and various other organisations in Walvis Bay, focussed on raising women’s self-esteem and confidence in society. The theme for the event was “Women will WIN with Self-esteem and Confidence”.
De Klerk lashed out at some cultural practices, which she said impeded the growth of women and turned them into easy targets of soft slavery through ‘male dictated tactics’.
“Many women are still deliberately kept in the kitchen and behind cooking pots, with the sole purpose of bearing children, raising them and feeding them – very often single handedly,” she said.
She noted that many women still spent unproductive hours collecting firewood, working on the fields and putting their children through school, instead of being given the opportunity to engage in skills development training and income generation.
On problems associated with inheritance, De Klerk noted that women are often losers, as they struggle to secure ownership of their property once their spouses die. Many a times, she said, women are chased off properties and deprived of inheritance from deceased husbands’ estates. She put the blame squarely on certain cultural practices, which she said prohibit women from speaking up.
“I am sorry to say dear friends that our own cultural traditions, which are impeding women’s growth, are just as guilty as our colonial powers of oppressing women and giving them a poor perception of themselves,” she said.
She called on women to gather courage and conviction to stand up and protest against such cultural practices, which inhibit their development and growth.
“Women should, without delay rise from the cooking pots to the boardrooms; they should emerge from their kitchens to the legislative chambers. They should emerge from passive behaviour to interested behaviour … women should assume leadership positions and excel within such structures,” she pleaded.
Women should also familiarise themselves with the contents of gender-related laws, such as the Domestic Violence Law, the Child Maintenance Law and most importantly the Married Persons Equality Law, the WAD leader noted.
WAD has been involved in community upliftment projects since its establishment 14 years ago. Its programmes are generally directed at women in rural communities, whom the organisation empowers through provision of relevant life skills and business and literacy skills.
In partnership with other organisations, it has been involved in projects such as rehabilitation of former sex workers, curbing violence against women and children, and most recently, the fight against corruption through the “Save Our Nation Choir Competition”.