Namibia: Swapo Female Parliamentarians Dormant

Female Swapo parliamentarians have only tabled five of the 60 motions in the National Assembly from 2015 to 2018.

None of the five motions from these MPs were related to gender issues and women's participation in politics.

A study conducted by University of Namibia political science lecturers Job Amupanda and Erika Thomas on the effectiveness of Swapo's 50/50 National Assembly gender representation policy from 2015 to 2018 revealed this.

The study, released during a public debate on gender and women's representation in decision-making held in Windhoek on Wednesday, also looked at the impact that women parliamentarians have made towards the setting of the National Assembly agenda.

It compared political representation against actual participation and meaningful contributions to discussions on gender issues.

Swapo claims to have been the first political party to introduce the 50/50 gender representation at its 1997 congress.

Although there are different scenarios over who introduced the policy in Namibia, it was introduced to parliament in 2014 when political parties were required to have a zebra list.

Currently, Namibia ranks 11th globally in terms of the number of women in parliament, with 46%, as a result of the 50/50 gender representation policy.

The country was awarded an African Gender Award from the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (Gimac) steering committee last year in recognition of the progress the country has made in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, especially promoting women's representation in key decision-making positions.

However, despite the increased female representation in the National Assembly, the study states that Swapo female parliamentarians have made only a few contributions to debates, and that nothing of those related to women and gender issues.

The National Assembly, during the period covered by the study, received five motions on gender and women's participation in politics. Three of those motions were tabled by female opposition members, while men presented two.

Speaking during the public debate, Amupanda said Swapo's female MPs were misrepresenting women's issues in the National Assembly.

He said despite the award for promoting gender which the country received last year, women's contributions to the decision-making process was very minimal.

He added that gender representation should not only be looked at from the body count, but on actual contributions.

Amupanda added that women should start to advocate and pressure those representing their interests in parliament to contribute meaningfully to debates.

Amupanda added: "You are very excited to have this representation, but what is the highest level of education of these parliamentarians?"

"We don't know, maybe female MPs are afraid of party discipline. But if female MPs are tabling motions on respect of elders and discipline, why can't they say the same about their issues? If they are afraid and they are not tabling any motions, we can understand, but they are tabling motions, just not on gender and women affairs," he stated.

Unam's senior sociology lecturer Lucy Edwards-Jauch said men should also take up women's issues, and fight for gender equality.

"I would like to see male participation on gender issues," she said.

Edwards-Jauch said there were still laws which do not protect women in marriage north of the red line, where property acquired during a marriage is not equally distributed.

She noted that for all these years that women have been in parliament, nothing has been done to change this. She stressed that some of the contributions given in parliament by women "leave much to be desired."

"Women and men need extra capacity in terms of training and research, but we start with our political parties, and transform them from patriarchal institutions to gender-sensitive and feminist institutions because we can have men as feminists," she said.

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