Date: February 2, 2011
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My space re-claimed
Political space is polluted. Globally, regional or at local levels, Namibia is not an exception. The more women are made aware of safer spaces, the less endemic violence against women and girls will be.

How can this space be made conducive for women to excel? Women might feel safer in spaces where it feels like their experiences are treated with respect and dignity and where their right to self-determination is acknowledged by all. These are spaces in which women can exercise decision-making and social and economic powers. But these rights are not forthcoming.

It is crucial to acknowledge here that those rights have been denied for many years. Women have fought political battles for equity so some of these rights are enshrined in the Supreme Law of the country. Yes, political independence was realised. But still the war has to be won for the total emancipation of women in the country. Another evil, violence, is now sky-rocketing. Police files report that about 447 or more cases of violence were reported last year. Rape and murder topped the list. Government, Councils and various civic groups came up with detailed strategic campaigns to arrest the situation.

2010 was a year for women to reclaim their space through the “Take back the NightÀ Campaign.   The 16 Days of Activism is a global advocacy campaign that runs from 25 November to 10 December each year. The campaign is premised on the principle that gender violence is a violation of women’s human rights. Since its inception in 1991 the campaign has provided an opportunity for activists across the globe to put gender violence on the agenda.

In 2010 Gender Links decentralised its 16 Days events in eight councils and communities in Namibia. Women reclaimed their rights and space during 16 Days GBV marches. Workshops were held in seven councils that have shown interest in the implementation of the Centres of Excellence for gender mainstreaming in local government.

Meetings were held in Rehoboth, Witvlei, Gobabis, Swakopmund, Arandis, Outju and Windhoek to establish 16 Days Activism Committees. Information was sent to a central place where community members were informed of the latest developments regarding planning, organisation, and possible meeting venues.

Reclaiming the night is about moving through spaces, day and night, in streets, homes and other places that were once unsafe. One gender activist, Nikodemus Aoxamub, said: “at all times these spaces have to be monitored by the law enforcement agencies, to make sure women’s space is free from rape, intimidation and also murder.À

Aoxamub continued, “space is about women’s rights and human rightsÀ. No one has the right to deny these rights to any citizen; this is inclusive of women and girls who are the main victims.À

The absolute right to move freely through space is not guaranteed in Namibia. Most victims of violent crime are killed and raped in river beds at all hours of the day. To stop this violence, most municipalities are working to make these spaces safe by taking out trees and brush and putting in lighting. Governments are beginning to show that they have a responsibility to ensure safe spaces and a stake in keeping them that way.
Whose space is it anyway? Mine, or yours, or everyone’s?

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