Namibia: Fifty-fifty gender representation possible

Namibia: Fifty-fifty gender representation possible

Date: August 27, 2014
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Windhoek, 17 April: Nora Schimming-Chase, former Namibian Ambassador and Member of Parliament, has expressed her disappointment with the current situation surrounding the lack of positive and progressive action towards a 50-50 initiative on gender representation in Parliament. She made the remarks at the official opening of the Namibia SADC Protocol@Work Summit held on 14 April.

Schimming-Chase said that those who are not fully committed to the 50-50 initiative use excuses, which she finds ridiculous. The notion prevails that it is not a possible or practical idea. Many argue that quality not quantity is what counts.

She said that since immediate benefits were involved, it was suddenly “quality” that they wanted, while during the Struggle for Liberation from colonial rule, women were at the forefront of the battle lines, joining groups such as the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), without having to verify whether they were ‘quality’. “Back then, women didn’t have to take exams or be scrutinised to determine if they were capable,” she said.

Women in history are often forgotten. Schimming-Chase made reference to the wife of Jacob Marengo (leader of the Bondelswarts community killed by British troops in 1907) as an example of a heroin who rarely gets mentioned, despite her being there with Marengo constantly, and being shot to death while trying to protect her husband.

According to Schimming-Chase, another excuse she has heard often lately is the idea that forcing parliament to have equality amongst its members would now disenfranchise men. She found this to be unfathomable, asking too how men could possibly ever worry about disenfranchisement from a group that has been disenfranchised for so long. She compared this to colonial rulers who expressed concern about previously disadvantaged groups taking revenge once the latter become leaders of nations. She said, “Women have been ‘under’ men for so many years, but only now disenfranchisement is an issue.”

She recognised the efforts of the ruling Party, SWAPO, in terms of their recognition of equality, noting that the 50-50 principle already existed in terms of ambassadors and people tasked with representing the country in foreign affairs. This is also the case with the Namibian Constitution, in which both sexes are represented.

“The Government of the Republic of Namibia is well on course with the 50-50 representation,” said Angelika Muharukua, Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. “The Ministry of Gender has done everything to give you the guidelines for both women and men… implementation is better than empty promises”, said Muharukua.

Schimming-Chase concluded her remarks with the sentiment that she had been through the liberation struggle from the beginning, and to this day has never felt, as she said, “equal.”

This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news.


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