“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance,” – former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan once said.
Essentially, the Ghanaian diplomat echoed Martin Luther King Jr., whose dream was to see people, including his daughters Bernice and Yolanda, being judged on the content of their character than on anything else.
Namibia this week deservingly received an African Gender Award for tireless efforts to promote equality between the country’s men and women populations. The country has gradually become a teacher and epitome of gender equality, although a lot remains to be done in this area.
Despite progress made, it was good to see President Hage Geingob reaffirming the country’s determination to do even better until absolute gender equality is attained. In other words, the country will not become complacent as it gloats in the glories of its achievements.
Often, the battle for gender equality on the African continent has pitted Namibia against Rwanda – another country that is doing extremely well on the subject. Rwanda could very well be the continental leader on this. But without stealing Rwanda’s shine or belittling her impressive success in this area, it is important to point out the artificial nature of her achievements.
After the massacre of up to 800,000 people in 100 days during Rwanda’s civil war of 1994, men were in short supply. Women, who had suddenly become 70 percent of the population, had to step in and do what is to be done. As Kate Chisholm writes for The Spectator, this generation grew up only knowing a world in which women are dominant, by force of circumstance.
Namibia’s female population is currently about 52 percent and the country ranks 12th in the world in terms of the number of women in parliament, according to data presented in the Women in Politics 2017 Map launched last year by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women in New York. This is a massive improvement from being ranked 29th globally in 2007.
Contradicting Namibia’s sterling performance however, is that the number of women in executive government positions and in parliaments worldwide has stagnated, with only marginal improvements since 2015. If numerically women outnumber men in Namibia, there is absolutely no reason why the minority (men) should be dominant in every sphere and institutions of our country. Of course we cannot ignore the impact of history on the skewed balance of gender representation, as women were mostly confined to chores that denied them education and other critical opportunities.
Against that background, it is fairly obvious – though not condoned – why men ended up dominating society in terms of leadership and representation in key positions. It is thus humbling to see that Namibia is hard at work to rectify this anomaly.
We cannot talk boldly about social inclusion if women have to beg for their place in society. They are our mothers, not beggars who should kneel to a patriarchal society that only recognises a portion of our population along gender lines.