When Namibia’s ruling party, Swapo, introduced a 50:50 gender mechanism in 2013 to enable equal representation in parliament, it envisaged a National Assembly (NA) full of women raising important motions affecting the nation.
The 50:50 NA gender representation was also meant to inspire women to start raising their voices be it at work, on the streets or in classrooms.
Five years later, however, the strategy has not really gone the way it was expected, as 40 Swapo female parliamentarians have not raised a single motion related to gender equality and women political participation in parliament in the past five years, from 2015 to 2018. That is dreadful.
It’s even more disappointing if you pull out the statistics, the 40 Swapo female NA members, who represent an overwhelming majority of female MPs in NA, have raised only five motions (out of 60 motions) unrelated to gender, while the three opposition female MPs have raised 10 motions, three of which were gender related. Dreadful.
It then begs the question, is Namibia’s 50:50 gender equality fight a pleaser? Is it a job for comrades? Are the women in parliament the crème da la crème in the country or are they only in parliament based on their liberation struggle credentials.
Yes, one could also argue that many of the men representing Swapo in parliament do so on the back of their deeds during the fight against colonialism. But five motions out of 60 in five years is a disappointing number even for the staunchest of feminist in the world.
Namibia’s women parliamentarians, especially those from the country’s largest political party, have not just disappointed themselves but the rest of us and the country’s girlchild. Those who had high hopes for a gender revolution in Namibia will have to wait much longer to realise their dream.
Women in Namibia face a plethora of problems sometimes hampering their daily activities. Access to sanitary pads for all school-going girls, especially the poor being an example. I know it is not up to women only but those (women) in parliament should spearhead a motion to ensure the availability of sanitary pads for free in the country. As the saying goes, “sex is a choice, menstruation isn’t.” I am of the view that the distribution of sanitary pads is as important as the free distribution of condoms. There should be no excuse for young girls have to miss school because they cannot afford sanitary pads.
Another example? Salary disparities between male and females. Reports are rife that some companies are still paying women less compared to men, although they are doing the same job. Again some people might argue and say that it is not just the responsibility of female MPs to raise this issue but I would counter argue and say if male MPs are failing to do this job, who is in a better position to then do it?
According to the statistics provided in the beginning, it is fair to say that Namibian female parliamentarians are failing women and us that advocate for equal rights.
Let us face it. Male parliamentarians are not really going to first fully fight for women’s rights before anything else. So, it is up to female parliamentarians, world over, to stand up, beat themselves in the chest and make their voices heard.
Women are suffering, women are still being discriminated, women are still being rated as second and yet we have females, who only go to the National Assembly to collect their pay cheques. It is sickening to say the least. And to those male parliamentarians also not raising motions related to gender, you are a disgrace too.