Namibia needs to implement measures to challenge persistent occupational segregation and gender pay gaps, as women are at the receiving end of both forms of discrimination.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila pointed this out yesterday. Her version was to a large extent supported by commentators who yesterday said Namibia still has a long way to go in achieving gender equality in all spheres.
The country today joins the rest of the world in observing International Women’s Day, but observers say much remains to be done to ensure that women are finally playing on a level playing field with their male compatriots.
Making reference to the 2013 Namibia Labour Force Survey, the PM said women’s mean wages are on average 16 percent less than that of men.
She added that this pay gap is experienced even in advanced regions, such as the European Union.
Namibia is, however, not sitting on its laurels in this regard, she said, noting that as of March 2015, female civil servants represented 61% of all employees in offices, ministries, agencies and regional councils in the country.
However, the pace of integrating women at management level is slower, with women filling up only 42 percent of management positions, she noted.
In the private sector only 40 percent of employees are females, Kuugongelwa- Amadhila noted.
Two years ago, however, the ratio of women at management level in the public sector was 38 percent, a figure that has slightly improved.
“A rigorous affirmative action drive and giving preferential exposure to female colleagues in terms of management, administrative and functional training has brought about such gradual shift in gender balance in the public service,” the PM remarked.
She added that it is encouraging to note that 58 percent of all professional and 54 percent of all technicians and associate professionals in the private sector are women.
There has also been a steady improvement in representation of women in the National Assembly. However, women are still under-represented in the National Council, at 26 percent, compared to 74 percent men.
Women’s representation at most levels of decision-making in other areas, such as the private sector, SOE boards and commissions remains worryingly low, the executive director of Women’s Action for Development, Salatiel Shinedima observed.
“It’s important for the nation to ensure that decisions of national interest represent equal views and opinions of both genders,” Shinedima said.
He called on lawmakers to amend the Electoral Act and put into law the 50/50 gender representation in the National Assembly and National Council.
He also urged political parties to review their electoral vetting systems to ensure that women are fairly represented.
Gender equality activist Ngamane Karuiahe-Upi observed that too much emphasis is placed on the political empowerment of women, rather than on general empowerment. In addition, Karuiahe-Upi explained that not many women are progressing in politics.
“We still have a long way to go, because we only concentrate on political appearances when it comes to gender equality. Gender equality should be in all spheres of life, whether cultural, religious or traditional,” he concluded.