From local to global levels, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted. Not only are women underrepresented in leading positions, they also represent the minority in civil service, in elected office positions, in the private sector and in academia. This imbalance persists despite women’s proven abilities as leaders and agents of change as well as their right to participate equally in democratic governance.
During lunch time and after a 35 km drive to the Katutura township, the UNIC Windhoek team were greeted by 600 girls at Hage Geingob High School on 25 July 2016, who excitedly awaited to partake in the United Nations (UN) System in Namibia’s ‘Prosperous Paths’ outreach programme.
The National Information Officer to Namibia, Ms. Anthea Basson, addressed the motivated crowd and engaged with them in an open dialog on how they experience gender injustice and discrimination in their daily lives. The girls impatiently awaited their turn to voice their concerns on issues affecting women and girls, and they passionately shared their insight and proposed solutions issues raised.
From the onset of the discussion it was clear that girls were well aware of the inequalities that exist within the country and that perpetuate from generation to generation. The fact that these forms of injustice persist throughout time, unaffected by the many actions taken by the government and the society, calls for a change in perspective.
A loud whisper could be heard as a young students passionately formed their visions into an organized action plan aimed at tackling gender inequality. One of the students said, “I believe that in order to create a just society, where all people, regardless of their sex or race are treated equally and fair, we have to fight the root causes of the inequalities.”
The student further added that, “In order to achieve this, we [as women] need to empower ourselves, and realize that we have a responsibility to not ignore issues of discrimination but rather put all of our strength into turning our dreams into reality.”
UNIC Windhoek believes that in order to reach equality for all, it is crucial to promote action on every level of the society, especially in local, regional and national levels of governance as well as in the executive boards of companies and businesses. If more women strive to hold higher positions within the government and in commerce, they can foster change in the mind-sets of people and eventually establish a new, more equal and just Africa that values its women.
Despite support for women in political leadership in the past, the representation of women in Parliament, cabinet, and local government across the SADC remains relatively poor, and no country has yet reached the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development’s target of “at least 50% of decision-making positions in the private and public sector should be held by women” by 2015.
However, as the youth represents the majority of Namibia’s population with over 66% of all Namibians being aged 30 years and younger, there is still hope for the future. Promotion of education and empowerment of women represent two central strategies to helping the youth help themselves and showing them how to make their voices heard well beyond the domestic sphere.
Through the Prosperous Path outreach initiative, the UN System in Namibia aims to encourage the female youth to join a women’s movement in Namibia and to provide guidance for one another, because together they can move mountains.