Namibia: Stop Promoting Yourselves-Geingos

FIRST lady Monica Geingos says women in leadership positions will not effect long-lasting change for the next generation of women if their only purpose is to promote themselves.

Geingos, who was speaking at the 2021 Amujae leaders' induction on Saturday, said women in leadership positions on the continent have chosen their own interests above making an impact on women in the future.

"I have watched in horror as a handful of women across the continent have placed their party or their personal or religious interests ahead of progressive policies for women. And regardless of the leadership position we hold, we will not create sustainable change if our only interest is to be physically present at the table," Geingos said.

She said female leaders should make structural changes through policies when they occupy those roles.

The first lady's comments come at a time when female parliamentarians, through online messages seen by The Namibian, seemed to attempt dividing the National Assembly (NA) on a motion on women's reproductive rights introduced last year.

Maria Kapere, the former secretary of the Council of Churches of Namibia, minister in the presidency Christine //Hoëbes, former Swapo backbencher Margaret Mensah-Williams, and Elma Dienda, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member of parliament took part in this online conversation.

"We will then squash it as she introduces it. We will reject it and [the] house will have to be divided. The fact that there were already petitions and [the] speaker will send it to a standing committee for the citizens to give their inputs it's a done deal," a comment under the name Mensah-Williams read.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by University of Namibia political science lecturers Job Amupanda and Erika Thomas shows female lawmakers tabled five motions related to gender equality and women's political participation, which were tabled in the NA from 2015 to 2018.

During the same period, female parliamentarians tabled 15 motions in total.

The house was dominated by Swapo, whose female lawmakers had the highest representation in the NA.

None of them tabled any motions related to gender issues or women's participation in politics.

The study on the effectiveness of Swapo's 50/50 gender representation policy in the NA from 2015 to 2018 revealed this.

After 2019's elections, women now constitute 46% of Namibia's parliament - up by six percentage points from before the November elections.

Namibia and South Africa are now on par with regards to the highest representation of women in parliament in the Southern African Development Community.

Geingos said female leaders are not protected by the patriarchal idea of a women's position, and are often belittled in those spaces.

"Being a leader is difficult enough, but being a female leader adds a gendered angle that we have undoubtedly all experienced, and the part that always surprises me is how your position, no matter how high you are in the food chain, never protects you from the overt and covert disrespect that patriarchy presents women," she said.

Geingos said women are still not free of traditional gender roles, which dictate they should get married, be seen but not heard, and produce offspring.

"Just by being talked down to, constantly being interrupted when you speak, the focus on your physical appearance, and let us not forget the gendered insults and insinuations . . . " she said.

Despite the negative backlash, more women in Africa are now taking up leadership positions, she said.

The top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51,9%), South Africa (48,6%), Ethiopia (47,6%), Seychelles (45,5%), Uganda (36,7%) and Mali (34,4%).

Morocco (5,6%) is the country where women in ministerial positions are least represented.

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