Windhoek-Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi has pledged to advance the rights of women and girls through monitoring gender mainstreaming legislation passed by parliament.
He additionally promised to advocate new laws meant to further address the plight of women and girls and render his full support to the SADC-PF project on sexual reproductive health rights and HIV and AIDS for members of parliament, currently underway until 2018.
The Speaker made the pledge recently when he launched the HEforSHE campaign at the National Assembly, where a number of lawmakers gathered and signed up as champions of change in a move intended to protect and advance the rights of particularly women and girls that are mostly at the receiving end.
The HeForShe Campaign, which seeks the advancement of women, further encourages equality by involving both women and men to be champions of change. It is an initiative of UN Women and in partnership with the SADC-PF has involved all parliamentarians in fighting gender-related challenges.
Katjavivi, who himself signed up to be one of the champions a year ago at the 39th SADC-PF plenary held in Swaziland, noted that gender mainstreaming in all sectors and advocacy for women empowerment are the catalyst for changing the status quo.
“Gender mainstreaming in political, economic and social spheres that involves monitoring and in collaboration with committees of parliament, particularly the gender committee and the women caucus, is very important. I will further advocate the introduction of new laws meant to address the plight of women as well as render my full support to the SRHR HIV/AIDS project,” promised Katjavivi.
With Namibia forming part of many signatories to conventions that seek to protect human rights for all and having enacted many of its own progressive laws on women empowerment, Katjavivi is displeased with the poor implementation of such laws.
“As the legislature we have passed many laws that are meant to protect and empower our women and girls such as the Affirmative Action Act and Children’s Status Act, to mention but a few. However, our women and girls continue to face serious challenges. Implementation of these legal instruments remains the biggest challenge.”
The Speaker attributed the anomaly partly to poor budget allocations for women empowerment programmes, urging fellow lawmakers to lobby for more gender responsive budgets.
“My view is that implementation has been sluggish because of insufficient budgetary allocation for programmes that target women and children. I urge our MPs to critically interrogate the budgetary allocations, to make sure that specific allocations are relevant to issues of women and girls. Gender-based budgeting should become the norm,” implored Katjavivi.
Deputy Representative of the UN Women for the South Africa Multi-Country Office, Themba Kalua, echoed similar sentiments, noting that lawmakers could turn the tide against gender inequalities by adopting gender responsive budgeting, supporting parliamentary structures that look at gender issues, passing legislation that is gender responsive and repealing counterproductive laws.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender and the Women Caucus are two main structures that specifically look at gender issues. The sign-up for reversing the challenge of gender inequalities has so far attracted over 1.7 million men and boys worldwide, who have pledged to work with their female counterparts to combat gender-related challenges.
* George Sanzila works as chief information officer in the Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.