26 April 2018

Namibia: Lawyers Association Educate Women On Their Rights

THE Namibian Women Lawyers Association coastal group held a free legal advice session for residents at the coast last weekend.

The session was held in order to assist the community at the coast and support the upholding of the rule of law and justice in Namibia. It focused mainly on family law, divorce and maintenance. The session, which was held at the Mondesa multi-purpose centre was mainly attended by women from Swakopmund.

The Namibian Women Lawyers Association was formed in 2015. The association is the first and only non-racial, non-profit association that was established for the development of female lawyers. Some of the initiatives of the association include the provision of pro bono legal advice and services to indigent members of society.

"We were able to assist many members of the community, who were grateful that such an opportunity had finally come their way. One of the objects of the NWLA is to advocate the equality of women under the law, which can only be realised if Namibian women know their rights, which is why free legal advice days are so important," said the chairperson of the NWLA coastal group, Alethea Borman.

Some of the concerns raised by attendees include that too little is being done to enforce maintenance orders.

Most women claimed that they do not have the funds to walk out of marriages and to institute divorce proceedings and needed guidance in this regard. Others said they were left alone to take care of themselves and their children, as the husbands are leaving and making a living on their own. Other concerns included women's rights to claim maintenance, divorce or other payments. Some raised the concern that they do not have access to lawyers who can enforce their rights.

According to Borman, the group is also concerned that many women all over the world are shown in many different ways, both explicit and implicit, that their basic human rights do not matter. The NWLA is therefore determined to impact and change this perception.

"From the sessions, it is clear that many women within our society still lack the basic knowledge and understanding of their rights. Secondly, some women prefer to remain silent and not challenge the status quo because of fear of victimisation. We believe that with more such sessions, more and more women will become familiar with their rights in society and empower themselves to speak up against abuse and discrimination," she said.

The group is particularly determined to fight against destructive cultural norms, that fuel gender inequality, and tell women they are smart, capable and just as powerful as men. The group advises Namibian women to keep in mind that they have rights, while urging them to contact their local legal assistance centres or members of the NWLA to help them determine their rights when they are unsure. Women are also urged to take full advantage of opportunities such as free legal advice days to have their questions answered. The coastal branch has agreed that a follow-up session is necessary, and hopes that more people will respond to the next invitation. The follow-up meeting will take place at Swakopmund again, while others will be held at Arandis and Walvis Bay later.

Maria Nakangombe, one of the attendees, spoke about what the meeting meant to them.

"It was very informative. We really have a lot of problems in society. I attended in order to learn about the law and my rights. The lawyers were really helpful. It was also not one-sided because we could ask as many questions as we wanted. I advise others not to be afraid to attend the next meeting, as they will get a lot of free information," she said.

The legal team comprised Alethea Borman, Mercedis Otis, Carol Schroeder, Wilmili de Bruyn, Terry Ann Poulton, Liezel and Shane Morwe.

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