Namibia: Women Say Their Reality Remains a Struggle

WOMEN say the recently released Namibian human Development Report does not reflect the reality on the ground as they face challenges that are not enumerated through the statistics.

In the Namibia National Human Development Report for 2019 released in February, the gender pay gap narrowed to 6,4% in 2018, compared to the 20,4% in 2012.

This shows that when a man earns N$7 975 on average, a woman earns N$7 462.

According to the National Planning Commission, women would need to work 25 days more per year than men to reach the same annual earnings, doing comparable work.

Another report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) earlier revealed that Namibia has closed at least 80% of its gender gap.

Meanwhile, women's rights activist Linda Baumann questioned whether the reports the United Nations agencies published on women representation in organisations considered the private sector.

Despite the 50/50 representation in parliament, Baumann argued, women are still suppressed because of patriarchy and misogyny that constantly play out in that space, whereas on the economic landscape, men still dominate.

"Looking at the UNDP report, I sometimes question how it has been levelled, and whether it took cognisance of private sector representation and participation because there isn't that much growth with women leading companies," she explained.

Fellow activist Rosa Namises agreed with the UNDP report on human development, that women remain disadvantaged in income, health and protection.

"This is true despite that women and girls in Namibia hold higher levels of human development in some spheres than men and boys do," she said.

The director of the Legal Assistance Centre, Tony Hancox, believes women have become much more comfortable in the law fraternity after having to work a lot harder to be competitive.

"In the past, women were perceived as too 'soft' to take on serious matters, but this has definitely changed," she said.

Speaking at the 2021 Amujae leaders' induction earlier this year, Namibia's first lady, Monica Geingos, said: "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."

In the police section, deputy commissioner Kauna Shikwambi said the safety and security space is no longer male-dominated, as they now have women in leadership positions.

The deputy inspector general for administration, major-general Anna-Marie Nainda, is part of the 40% female leadership in the Namibian Police, Shikwambi said.

Shikwambi added that the Southern African Development Community police chiefs have established a women's network structure within the regional police forces to ensure that all women issues are addressed, and that women are empowered and well-represented at all levels.

The UNDP report found "little evidence that the gender pay gap is justified by differences in observable characteristics between men and women".

UNDP recommended gender-awareness career counselling, especially in male-dominated sectors, to reduce the gender pay gap and enable increased women participation in the labour force that could reduce poverty in women-headed households.

The report also recommended greater incentives for women to reduce the time they spend on household activities.

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