Category: News Blog
Published on Monday, 07 March 2016 11:31
RIGHT HONOURABLE SAARA KUUGONGELWA-AMADHILA, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA
COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
SAFARI HOTEL, WINDHOEK, MONDAY, 7 MARCH 2016 08h30
Director of Proceedings
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers present
Fellow Presenters and Moderators
Researchers and Scientists
Esteemed Invited Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to officiate at this auspicious event where we commemorate the Annual International Women’s Day – this year under the theme of “Pledge For Parity!”. I thank the House of Women for their kind invitation to me to attend this event, and I also acknowledge the other support partners: Hanns Seidel Foundation, Sister Namibia Magazine, and Namibia Institute for Democracy for their important roles in hosting this event.
This week, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains the world’s best blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowering women. The review of this visionary roadmap is an opportunity to celebrate the world’s progress toward ensuring the rights and opportunities of women and girls, and also to renew and reinvigorate commitments to achieve gender equality.
What this Day is trying to achieve is to bring together women of all backgrounds to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women in our country – and simultaneously in many other places around the world – and to consider ways in which we can accelerate gender parity by playing a part in the pledge for parity. This theme reflects not just education or advocacy in support of women, but also the importance of taking active steps to support women across Namibia, through parity pledges expected from the participants today.
In 2015, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take until 2133 to achieve complete global gender parity. That is 117 years from now – too long for anyone gathered here today to witness. This is not only worrying, but shocking indeed. Then, in terms of the Africa Union Agenda 2063, all Member States have agreed that by 2063, all forms of violence and discrimination (social, economic, political) against African women and girls, including sexual violence in conflict situations, should cease to exist and they should fully enjoy all their human rights.
I would like to this morning, highlight Namibia’s strides made to narrow the gender gap on various fronts, and its ambition to maintain this progress going forward. Hopefully, we will achieve gender parity much earlier than the forecast by the WEF and the commitment of the AU Agenda 2063.
Namibia has made good progress in creating laws that establish that women and men have equal rights and in ratifying relevant regional and international treaties dealing with the elimination of discrimination against women.
Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution protects the rights of all persons including women from any form of discrimination. In order to give effect to this clause, a comprehensive legal framework has been developed, which includes:
The Married Persons Equality Act, 1 of 1996, that lays down clear rules to achieve equality between husband and wife within marriage;
The Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 29 of 1998, that provides for affirmative action measures to achieve equal opportunity in employment for racially disadvantaged persons, women and persons with disabilities;
The Labour Act, 11 of 2007, that, amongst others, protects employees against unfair labour practices and disallows an employment decision based on gender between employees who do work of equal value;
The revised National Gender Policy (NGP) that is designed to create a society in which women and men enjoy equal rights and access to basic services and to provide opportunities for all to participate in and contribute to the political, social, economic and cultural development in the country;
The latest addition being the Public Procurement Act that provides for priority attention to formerly disadvantaged groups including women.
NEEEF that is currently in the pipeline will give effect to the Constitutional mandate to enact legislation to redress the effects of past discriminatory laws.
While Namibia has legislated gender parity in the workplace, this may not fully translate into “Equal Pay for Equal Worth of Work”. We need to learn from best practices around the world where some countries have adopted Codes of Good Practice on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value.
I must hasten to add, however, that the translation of equality before the law into equal outcomes is not automatic. Entrenched inequalities, discriminatory social norms, customary biases, or plain ignorance of the law, as well as dominant patterns of economic development, can undermine their implementation and positive impact.
That notwithstanding, let me briefly take stock of our achievements in narrowing the gender gap. As at March 2015, female civil servants represented 61% of all employees in OMAs/RCs1. However, the pace in terms of employing women at management levels is slower with women filling up 42% of management positions. In the private sector only 40% of employees are females2. The positive thing in all this is that, two years ago the ratio of women at management level in the public sector was 38%. A rigorous affirmative action drive and giving preferential exposure to female colleagues in terms of management, administrative and functional training has brought about such gradual shift in gender balance in the public service.
It is also encouraging to note that 58% of all professionals and 54% of all technicians and associate professionals in the private sector are women3.
Alongside economic policies that can create decent jobs, measures are needed to challenge persistent occupational segregation and gender pay gaps. According to the Namibia Labour Force Survey for 2013, women’s monthly mean wages (in Namibia Dollar) are on average 16% less than that of men. This pay gap is experienced in advanced regions as well as such the EU.
In its Global Gender Gap Report of 2015, the World Economic Forum measures the Global Gender Gap Index for 145 countries4. This Index examines the gap – rather than level of parity – between men and women in four fundamental categories (or sub-indexes):
Economic Participation and Opportunity,
Health and Survival, and
Namibia ranks in 16th position compared to 38th position ten years ago. This achievement is primarily due to two factors: Namibia has fully closed the gap on (a) the Health and Survival indicator, and on (b) the Educational Attainment indicator.
Namibia is lagging in the 27th position in terms of the Economic Participation and Opportunity Indicator, mainly as a result of its low rank in terms of Wage equality between men and women where Namibia is ranked 57th out of 145 countries.
In terms of the Political Empowerment indicator, Namibia is ranked 33rd mainly as a result of its 10th position with regard to Women in Parliament. We should persist in our efforts to consolidate these successes and further build upon them.
Before concluding, let me once again condemn the vice of violence against women and girls. Violence against women, disempowers women, but also impoverishes families. We need to strengthen partnerships at community level to enforce our laws in order to have peace at family level.
To enhance socio-economic empowerment and reduce household poverty, we need to promote partnerships between women and men, between employees and employers, between previously disadvantaged and previously advantaged persons. If we continue to polarise our society along these lines, our nation will fail dismally.
Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly.
To this end, it is important to note that gender equality does not mean women ruling over men, but it rather guarantees a level playing field absent of all forms of discrimination that prevail against women. Women empowerment makes absolute sense, since an ancient Ethiopian proverb suggests that “Where a woman rules, streams run uphill”.
On that note, I extend my best wishes to you all for a happy International Women’s Day, and call upon all women and men of Namibia to work together in partnership in order to address the challenge of poverty and move into a transformed and prosperous era.
I thank you.