Namibia: Activists Call for Women Empowerment Blueprint

A creche at Chuka open-air market in Tharaka-Nithi County where mothers drop their babies in the morning. The facility has been constructed by the county government.

Women's rights activists have called on the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare to specify in detail how they planned to utilise N$27,4 million to improve gender equality and women's empowerment in Namibia.

This amount is part of N$5,4 billion, which the parliament last week approved for allocation to the ministry, after gender minister Doreen Sioka tabled her budget motivation.

Sioka said the N$27,4 million would be spent on projects "aimed at combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), human trafficking, the promotion of gender equity, women's empowerment, and gender-responsive budgeting and personnel expenditure".

Outright Namibia spokesperson and women's rights activist Ndiilo Nthengwe says if Sioka is serious about addressing gender equality, it should not only be limited to economic empowerment, but should also focus on reproductive justice.

"Since funds have been allocated specifically to combat this, what will be the blueprint? And how would this be different to the Prioritised National Plan of Action on GBV (2019-2023)," she asks.

Nthengwe describes reproductive justice as quality sexual and reproductive healthcare, socio-economic empowerment, access to safe, on-demand legal abortions, the eradication of sexual and gendered violence, as well as accessible/affordable family-planning services.

"We cannot continue to allocate funds to areas which have proven, over the years, to be ineffective. What is the ministry's new strategy to combat all these challenges?" she asks.

Nthengwe says since the stakeholder engagement meeting in November with #ShutItAllDown, there has been no further engagement, especially from the gender ministry, on reducing SGBV in the country.

Meanwhile, gender and human rights activist Linda Baumann says for the budget allocation to be effective, the ministry has to be serious about ensuring that all other government ministries implement gender-responsive activities to address gender barriers within the public service, and should also ensure that this is realised within the private sector.

"I believe our national priorities remain bridging gender gaps, affirming sexual and gender-diverse services, and aligning national economic development with gender consciousness that would uplift all sectors of development," she says.

Baumann says the gender budget should address the protection of women, children and their well-being, ensuring access to education as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights.

She says the ministry should ensure that funds are properly allocated to serve communities and not to cover operational costs only.

Ministry spokesperson Lukas Haufiku promised to provide more information on the ministry's strategy at a later stage.

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