In light of an increase in incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) at the workplace the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare yesterday launched the 16 days of activism against the anti-social vice at the north-western town of Opuwo in the Kunene Region.
The 16 days of activism campaign is being held under the theme, "End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work," supported by the United Nations Women theme, "Orange the World, #HearMeToo."
"The aim of this year is to create awareness that gender-based violence is also perpetuated at workplaces; so that we push for systematic change and safeguard the rights of all employees. Gender-based violence is a human rights issue and should be recognised as such," explained Doreen Sioka, the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare at the launch.
GBV is so prevalent it has become a human rights issue which needs to be recognised as a women rights' issue due to the fact that it violates the inherent and innate rights of women, which include unwanted touching, hugging, rape and sexual discrimination, among others.
"Unwanted touching, hugging, sexual discrimination and all that should not be exhibited at any place of work - be it in the public or private sectors. These unprofessional acts make people uncomfortable and are uncalled for. No one should allow or stand unwanted sexual behaviour at places of work. Acts of sexual harassment should be reported and culprits should face the full force of the law," she said.
On her part the United Nations Adolescent and Gender Specialist at UNICEF Jacqueline Kabambe on behalf of Rachel Odede, the United Nations Coordinator and UNICEF Representative, stated that violence against women and girls is a complex phenomenon deeply embedded in unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent social norms, practices and behaviours that discriminate against women at home, in the workplace and throughout society.
"This year's international theme, 'End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work' calls on each and every one of us to take hands and work together to address this pervasive issue that extends across communities, regions, borders, institutions and the globe," explained Rachel Odede, the United Nations Coordinator and UNICEF Country Representative.
The Inspector-General of the Namibian Police Force, Sebastian Ndeitunga, through Deputy Commissioner of Nampol Kunene Region, Dr Shaxula, called on everyone to raise awareness toward ending gender-based violence against women and girls, men and boys as this hinders the participation of the victim and perpetrator in societal and national developments.
He said GBV slows down productivity at the workplace resulting in poor performance and output.
Gender-based violence constitutes a breach of fundamental human rights to life, rights to liberty, right to security, to dignity, equality between men and women, non-discrimination and rights to a healthy physical and mental condition.
Hence, the perpetration of these inhumane acts does not only negatively impact those vulnerable individuals who suffer physical and mental harm, but has a wider societal impact, such as lower productivity, reduced economic output and heightened pressure on internationally agreed developmental goals. It limits the victim's participation in societal and national developments, and damages their physical and mental health and their economic well-being, he said.
He emphasised the importance of carrying out the yearly campaign, so as to change the mindset of the perpetrators to allow their fellow human beings to appreciate the purpose of life and enable them to make a meaningful contribution in society.
Ndeitunga called upon community members to provide relevant information to the authorities, so that gender-based violence perpetrators can be arrested and face the full wrath of the law to ensure that justice prevails and all persons in Namibia are guaranteed a safer environment to live in.
*Malakia Nashongo is an information officer at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Opuwo, Kunene Region.