Female MPs rally around gender audit

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Karibib Constituency Councillor in the Erongo Region, Melania Ndjago, along with fellow women members of parliament (MPs) says it is high time the Women’s Caucus looks at gender equality in the workplace.

She suggested that the caucus should conduct a gender audit at private companies to determine whether there is any gender pay gap between men and women in the same positions.

Ndjago also called on the Women’s Caucus to examine the measures and criteria used to appoint members of boards of directors, and to determine what percentage of women hold directorships.

Currently it was evident that boards of directors at most companies in Namibia were men, while women still lagged behind.

Ndjago formed part of the National Council Women’s Caucus that travelled to New York to attend the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN Headquarters from 13 to 24 March 2017.

The regional councillor spoke in the National Council yesterday, where she urged the house to adopt the report with the above recommendations, and to ensure the implementation of these recommendations.

She called on the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to consider establishing special programmes in future, specifically for women from marginalised communities such as the Himbas and San that could benefit them economically.

The Women Caucus, with the assistance of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and other organisations dealing with women’s issues will carry out research at government offices, ministries and agencies (OMAs) to determine the percentage of women in decision-making positions.

She also said financial institutions must consider giving special loans without collateral, specifically for previously disadvantaged women’s groups.

Ndjago specifically mentioned women’s groups that need to start up businesses or those who want to expand their businesses and called on legislators to introduce bills for women’s economic empowerment.

She explained that the discussions at the session focused on parliamentary strategies to advance women’s economic empowerment, and the paramount role parliaments play in identifying and addressing obstacles to women’s economic empowerment.

Ndjago noted that the delegates emphasised that women’s economic empowerment required addressing crosscutting issues.

This included issues such as gender stereotypes, discriminatory legislation, gender-based violence and unequal access to education and decision making positions.

She highlighted that women in parliaments worldwide make up only 23.3 percent.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has promoted greater political participation for years, but she says progress is slow.

“Women should continue working together with all stakeholders, including men, to realise the increase of women in decision making positions,” she remarked.

She said parliaments needed to review their labour and social policies to promote equality at work.

Equally, she maintained unpaid care work should be shared between men and women as a condition for ensuring equality in paid work, and added that institutions must ensure work is a safe place for women.

Another issue the MPs touched on was violence against women in politics.
She said they noted that there is a growing awareness of gender-based violence that targets women voters and candidates in elections.

“Such violence impedes women’s political rights, discourages women who want to work in such jobs, degrades political life and undermines the foundation of democracy,” she said.
The CSW is an annual event where representatives of member states gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality.

These sessions work towards identifying challenges, setting global standards and formulating concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

The theme of the 61st Session of the CSW was: “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”.

The review theme was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, while the emerging issue was on “the empowerment of indigenous women”.

The Chair of the 61st session, Antonio de Aguuiar Patriota from Brazil officially opened the session, and Antonio Guterres, the new Secretary General of the United Nations also addressed the gathering.

She said the chair of the session applauded the gathering for ensuring that their participation was a clear expression of the strong commitment to gender equality and women’s human rights by political leaders, specialists, advocates and champions.

Ndjago noted that participants exchanged experiences, lessons learned and good practices on the subjects, with an emphasis on national laws, policies, programmes and regulations to reduce the gender pay gap.

“It is a concern that still in this generation, there is a gender pay gap. Several participants noted that the gender pay gap tends to be wider in the private sectors than in the public sectors,” she stated.

Moreover, she said the meetings underscored the need to promote a better work-life balance, particularly for women, who tend to spend more time carrying out unpaid care work.

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