Windhoek — It is hard enough for women to scale heights in their careers, but even when they do, they have to overcome stigma and the pull-her-down attitude that make it almost impossible for them to be successful, says Anna Nakale-Kawana, the former NamibRe managing director.
Speaking on the eve of today's International Women's Day, Nakale-Kawana shared her 10 years' experience as MD.
She said even though Namibia has made notable provision by enacting legal frameworks on gender equality and empowerment for women to excel in both the public and corporate spheres, due to stigma and lack of support from their male counterparts women are still struggling to stay afloat.
For example, over the last five years Namibia witnessed senior female executives suspended from top management positions on what could be regarded as flimsy grounds.
Nakale-Kawana feels the suspension of women from top management positions does not have anything to do with their incapability, but is rather due to gender stereotypical bias.
"It is a challenge being a woman director or manager, especially the fact that men are always the majority in boardrooms, and if they want to get rid of you, without anyone opposing their decision, it is always a group of men against one woman," she said.
She described such behaviour as not benefiting the nation and not healthy - to have women with capabilities being victimised at their workplace simply because they are women. Narrating her journey as the CEO of NamibRe for 10 years, Nakale-Kawana said being a female CEO was a challenging experience, especially that she found herself alone in a boardroom full of males.
"Sometimes you find yourself in a boardroom full of ties. I sat in some board of director meetings where you found yourself one or two women in the mix of lots of men."
She said the challenge is not that you won't be able to do your work but just that you won't be comfortable and happy, unlike if there were other women in the room.
Although she was never stigmatised nor victimised while serving as the MD of NamibRe, she said, she believes there are still women in management and decision-making positions who are being victimised and mistreated just because they are women, to the extent that some end up suspended without clear reasons.
She listed one of the notable achievements during her tenure at NamibRe is that they never went back to the government for any financial assistance.
"We grew the capital that the government injected in us and the assets of the company and we paid our dividends to the government on time," said Nakale-Kawana.
Namibia joins the international community today to commemorate International Women's Day. The day highlights and acknowledges the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements and contributions made by women. It also serves as a platform to take stock of what countries have achieved and pinpoint the challenges faced in the struggle of women for social-economic and political emancipation. This year the day is observed under the theme, "From peace in the home, to peace in Namibia: press for progress."
Namibia has success stories to tell on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Its Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is female and so is the Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the vice-president of the ruling Swapo Party, and she is in pole position to become president of the country in future. Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah-Williams is also female. Forty-eight out of 104 parliamentarians are women. The Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa is also female.
The country became the only SADC member state to sign the draft agreement amending the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that provides for empowering women, eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality.
Aunice Ipinge the secretary of the Swapo Party Women's Council (SPWC) says women representation in key decision-making structures in the government and social sectors has improved.