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Draft: Gender strategy for local government in Namibia

Government of Namibia

25 July 2007

SARPN acknowledges Gender Links as a source of this document:
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The aim of this strategy is to give effect to government commitments to gender equality at the local level through practical steps for ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in and through local government.

Concepts and context

Gender refers to the different societal expectations, norms and values ascribed to women and men, boys and girls in a particular society and culture.

Gender stereotyping
Gender stereotyping refers to the way that society expects women and men to behave and the roles they are expected to play. These stereotypes often define women and men in opposite ways; are limiting to both women and men and legitimise unequal power relations. They are expressed, for example in the gender division of labour. They result in women being relegated to an inferior status in all areas: social, political and economic.

Women and men in Namibia
Women constitute 51 percent of the population in Namibia. Approximately 35 percent of the population live in urban areas with the remaining 65 percent living in rural areas. While gender equality is enshrined in the Constitution which takes precedence to Customary and Common law religious, the daily lives of the vast majority of women continues to be determined by Customary law. This relegates women to being minors most of their lives; under their fathers, husbands, sons or male relatives. Women own only a tiny fraction of land and property and widows are often disinherited of family property.

In Namibia, unlike many other Southern African countries, more girls access primary and secondary education than boys but more young men receive tertiary education than young women. There is a high drop out rate of young women from secondary education as a result of teenage pregnancies.

Men generally go into the more technical and better paid professions while women predominate in care-related work such us domestic work; nursing and teaching.

It is estimated that more than 56 percent of men in Namibia are employed compared to 41 percent of women. Women constitute the majority of the poor, the dispossessed and the unemployed.

There is a higher proportion of women than men in the informal sector, with most women predominating in the survivalist sector. Women struggle to obtain credit to start their own enterprises. A recent survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare showed that while women constitute 33 percent of managers in the private sector in Namibia and 27 percent of the managers in the public sector, they only comprise 17 percent of the Boards of Directors in the private sector and 29 percent in the parastatal sector.

While women comprise 42 percent of the councillors in local government, women still only constitute 27 percent of members of parliament; 11 percent of regional representatives and 23 percent of the cabinet. The Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) conducted in 2003 by Gender Links and MISA showed that women constitute 19 percent of news sources in Namibia and that women's views are most under represented in the political, sports, and economic topic categories. While men are portrayed in a wide variety of roles, women are most likely to feature in the news as home makers; models or as victims of violence.

High and increasing levels of gender violence underscore inequalities in the home and in society. Statistics show that there has been a 28 percent increase in incidences of rape and attempted rape from 2000 to 2005.

Gender violence is closely linked to the HIV and AIDS pandemic that is leading to many of the fragile gains made by women being reversed. The National Aids Policy on HIV and AIDS launched in July 2007 states that "one of the root causes on Namibia's high HIV prevalence is the low status of women. Women often do not have the chance to decide freely when, how and with who they have sex. Sex, in exchange for rewards and security, is common across all ages. Few women have real control within relationships to enforce the use of condoms." Women are the majority of those newly infected by and living with HIV, and also shoulder a disproportionate burden of caring for those infected and affected.

Gender equality and equity
Gender equality concerns ensuring equal opportunities for women and men to enjoy their human rights. Gender equity is about equality of outcome and results. It is a stronger concept that equality of opportunity. It means that women and men, boys and girls have an equal chance of reaching the finishing line, not just an equal chance of being at the starting line.

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