Women demand change for their votesBy: NANGULA SHEJAVALI
NAMIBIAN women from all walks of life have made it clear that political parties will have to earn their votes, and will be held accountable for the promises they make.
This message was communicated to political parties yesterday during a dialogue with women as part of the Women Claiming Citizenship Campaign, where a “women’s advocacy brochure” outlining the demands of Namibian women was also launched.
According to the Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC), the brochure brings together the various demands made over the years by Namibian women in their struggles for national development and women’s rights.
“As women, we are becoming citizens, and gone are the days that we just voted without keeping political parties accountable to the promises that they made to women,” WLC Director Elizabeth /Khaxas said.
She said the brochure would provide everyone, including political parties, with a gender agenda once they are elected, and that parties would be assessed on the basis of where they stand in relation to the issues outlined in the brochure.
The demands listed in the brochure include “freedom from violence and discrimination, freedom from harmful cultural practices and beliefs, freedom from hunger and poverty, access to resources and services, freedom from preventable diseases and access to quality healthcare for all, freedom from HIV and AIDS, and access to quality education and training.”
/Khaxas said women were “prepared and ready to meet with the new Government and opposition parties next year to chart a strategic plan of how we, as a country, could go about achieving the aim of full gender equality”.
Giving the keynote address at the event, Anna Beukes, Executive Director of the Namibia NGO Forum (NANGOF), pointed out that women make up 52 per cent of the country’s population, and that their voices therefore needed to fully acknowledged.
She said that as women prepared to take to the polls for the fourth national elections since Independence, they wouldn’t be voting simply for the sake of voting, but being conscious of their rights and the policies and legislation to which Namibia is party, they would hold politicians accountable for their work.
“As women, we need to reposition ourselves as full citizens... It is time to take a stand for the change we want,” she added.
“We are in a favourable trade situation here. Let’s do business!” Beukes told the political parties participating in the dialogue, stating that they would have to give women what they want in order to get their votes.
“Women have taken the power of the vote to make and bring about the change we want,” she added, asking the political parties whether they were ready to “adjust, change, and remain relevant”.
The parties present at the forum included the All People’s Party (APP), the Congress of Democrats (CoD), the National Democratic Party (NDP), the Namibia Democratic Movement of Change (NDMC), Nudo, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Swanu and the UDF.
During the dialogue with the women, various issues were brought to the fore, with gender equality, violence and discrimination, abortion and baby dumping, homosexuality, HIV-AIDS, healthcare and harmful cultural/traditional practices forming the bulk of the conversation.
Poverty, access to clean water, discrimination against women living with HIV and AIDS, social grants and support for home-based care volunteers, rape, the decriminalisation of sex work, and several other issues also featured in the discussion.
Representatives of the eight parties present each stated their party’s stance on some of the issues affecting women, and responded to a number of questions.