Windhoek — Namibia was yesterday bestowed with an African Gender Award for her continuous work towards empowering women - a quest commended by former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her courtesy call to President Hage Geingob at State House.
Namibia has been recognised for its legal and policy frameworks aimed to promote women's rights by the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) steering committee. The country has seen an increase in women in decision-making positions, following the ruling Swapo Party's adoption of 50/50 gender representation.
This has helped increase women representation in parliament.
Namibia aims to fully implement the 50/50 policy in line with the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development before the set deadline lapses in 2030.
The SADC Gender Protocol, which is a legally binding document and expects all states to domesticate, was signed and ratified by Namibia in 2015.
Sirleaf, who recently transferred power to former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah in native Liberia, denounced critics who feel women in senior political leadership are still lagging behind in terms of delivery, saying there is no retreat.
She cited as an example Joyce Banda, the former president of Malawi, a long-time advocate for female representation in politics, who was Africa's second female president.
Banda too has been at the forefront of the fight for equal rights for decades.
"There is no retreat. In the case of Joyce, as you know there was an election after she left the country. There were some small problems. Joyce returned and she was welcomed by her compatriots. And so, we believe she has a future in accordance with her own desires and the will of her people. We had hoped that we would add several women ready to compete in the elections that are coming up. We cannot say for sure that it won't happen in the next one, two to three years. We are not going back," she remarked.
She said as gender advocates they do not only seek women leaders for presidential posts but also as parliamentarians, church leaders, businesswomen and all other aspects of society.
According to her, the issue of a lack of women in leadership is not only a challenge for Africa but for the whole world.
Sirleaf commended the Namibia government for the promotion and empowerment of women in society.
"You will be getting an award for that. It's something we all cherish and look at - the progress made over the years in Namibia and in some southern and western Africa countries as far as women empowerment and women in executive positions, as well women at the grassroots and their participation," she noted.
She also briefed Geingob that she met Namibian youth and discussed how they can participate in society.
Equally, she met the Namibian parliamentary women caucus who were also joined by some male parliamentarians.
Geingob welcomed Sirleaf and applauded her for her work during her presidency as she led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions.
Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions.
"It's a great honour to welcome you to Namibia as the first democratically elected first female president who successfully completed two five-year terms, left office and was recognised by the Mo Ibrahim Prize and then dealing with the most difficult situation. Never left the country during that time and here you are," said President Geingob.
Sirleaf also became the first woman to win the coveted $5m prize for African leadership. Sirleaf won the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in February in recognition of her efforts to rebuild her country following two civil wars.
The prize was founded by Sudanese telecommunication billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim and the winner receives $5m over 10 years and $200,000 annually for the rest of their lives.
Previous winners include former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba (2014), former Cape Verde President Pedro Pires (2011), former Bostwana President Festus Mogae (2008), and former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano (2007).