25 October 2017

Namibia: Zambezi to Combat Harmful Cultural Practices

Oshakati — Libula and Chinchimane residents in Zambezi Region have expressed their willingness to partake in the fight against harmful practices enforced against girls and women, which violate their human rights and adds to the high HIV prevalence rate in the region.

Participants at the one-day training workshop on Human Rights and Culture were in unison that some cultural practices are abusive and should be deterred to protect girls from violence and exposure to HIV/AIDS.

The training, organised by the Women Leadership Centre (WLC), was held in Katima Mulilo last Friday.

Programme manager Liz Frank said the workshop covered national laws and international instruments aimed at protecting the human rights of girls in the country.

"And it analysed how these rights are violated by an array of harmful cultural practices in various communities across the country that expose girls and women to all forms of violence, as well as a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS," said Frank.

"Traditional leaders and community members spoke out strongly against polygamy, forced marriage, widow inheritance, dry sex, widow cleansing and the high price for lobola, stating these practices violate women's rights to control their own bodies and lives and fuel the high prevalence of HIV in Zambezi," she said.

The 2016 prevalence rate for women between 25 - 49 years was 44.2 percent in Katima Mulilo compared to the national average of 24 percent.

It was further revealed that for the past eight years the HIV prevalance rate for women tested in Katima Mulilo, in the bi-annual sentinel surveys of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, remained higher than any other testing centre in the country.

Participants at the meeting also welcomed the recent recommendations from three United Nations human rights officials to Namibia on the need to prevent harmful practices and protect women's rights.

"They particularly welcomed the fact that government has now adopted a plan on the implementation of the recommendation of CEDAW Committee, which monitors the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)," said Frank.

The training was sponsored by the British Council and attended by traditional leaders in the region.

WLC has worked in the region for the past twelve years on the need to prevent harmful cultural practices against girls and children

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