WINDHOEK – Gender equality is not a slogan in Namibia but an actual scheme the country is firmly committed to, President Hage Geingob said on Tuesday.
The country is committed to increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, he added.
“We breathe it, speak it, and live it. We do so, knowing well, that men and women are peerless partners who are supplementary to one another. Each helps the other, so that without the one the existence of the other cannot be conceived and, therefore, it follows that anything that impairs the status of either of them will involve the equal ruin of them both,” Geingob said on Tuesday evening when he received the African Gender Award from former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The award is in celebration of the outstanding achievements of Namibia in promoting gender equality and promotion of women’s rights.
Namibia has been conferred an award as a top performing country in Africa by the African Gender Forum, within the context of the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC).
Geingob noted Namibia’s commitment to gender equality is visible when one looks at the important role women play in politics, including the highest decision-making bodies, namely, the executive and legislature.
Currently, he said, women comprise 45.5 percent of the members of parliament in the National Assembly.
Geingob said Namibia has been able to consolidate participation of women after the ruling Swapo Party took a principled decision at the 1997 congress by passing a resolution to increase the proportion of female delegates to the party’s congress up to 50 percent.
This, he says, was the genesis of the now constitutionally mandated Swapo Party zebra-style 50/50 policy.
He said that Namibia’s achievements in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment are due to the sterling efforts of his predecessors, the Founding Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, and the second president, Hifikepunye Pohamba.
He said his predecessors ensured that gender equality was always on the agenda and this insistence culminated in the pushing through of the 50/50 policy by Pohamba at the 2013 Swapo Party extraordinary congress at Swakopmund.
Geingob said that within Swapo they have placed women at the strategic level. “The top four in Swapo Party consists of two men and two women. The vice-president of Swapo, who also happens to be our deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation, is a woman, and so is the secretary general of the party.”
“They are joined tonight by a powerful contingent of women leaders such as the prime minister, and many of our female ministers and deputy ministers, who hold strategic portfolios within government,” he noted.
He said their commitment is not only about increasing the chances of success for the girl child, but they aspire, through the participation of the girl child, to promote and nurture women leaders, for today and tomorrow.
Equally, he explained that inclusive governance is the key to inclusive growth and an effective tool for women’s empowerment, saying participation of women at all levels of governance symbolises freedom and equality, not only in decision-making bodies but in society at large.
Geingob said the empowerment of women is about human rights and application of natural justice, adding that Namibia has consolidated this notion within its laws. Specifically, he cited article 10 of the Namibian constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, that clearly states: ‘All persons shall be equal before the law … and no persons may be discriminated against on grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.’
He stressed that the protection of rights, which are contained in the Namibian constitution, is buttressed by the Married Persons Equality Act, which ensures that aspects of common and customary law on marriage are in line with the constitution.
“So, man is not automatically the head of the household. Therefore, the couple must decide who the head of the household is,” he remarked.
He said women have an integral role to play in the pursuit of the country’s national, regional and continental developmental objectives.