Conscious Citizens on WOMEN Oppression and Empowerment.

On 14 April ’15, at The Polytechnic Hotel School, the Conscious Citizens got together with the public to discuss the intricate interplay between various factors like culture, economy, and gender-based violence under the theme “Where is the Love”.?

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The event mostly attracted young women, who expressed interest in learning and sharing their experiences joined by a panel of individuals from different organizations, student bodies to civil representatives.

The oppression of women has been on an increase lately, especially physical abuse which has led to a rise in murders on mother’s, girlfriend’s, wife’s and daughters of Namibia, and according to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC)  “a third of Namibian women experienced intimate partner violence”

If that is not enough, sources report that most rapes in Namibia are committed by family members or acquaintances of the victim (LAC 17 Mar. 2010, 6; Namibia 10 Nov. 2010, para. 80) together with the problem of absentee and inexperienced father’s has led to the division and collapse of the family unit. As the panelists agreed that family is at the center of this “intimate partner violence” solution and having a well balanced, updated family keeping up with the system is vitally important.

Key Question: How does the family unit influence gender-based violence?

Children raised in the right environment are more unlikely to turn out aggressive when dealing with problems to the extent of murdering their partners, and both Calvin Izaks (Fatherhood Foundation) and Anna Beukes (correctional services) believe in training and developing young men and women to help prepare them for parenthood. Unlike those who grow up seeing women oppressed and register it as Ok and carry on growing up with that believe.

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Key Question: Do you think religion has unfortunately been misrepresented when woman are supposed to submit in a relationship?

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The spiritual aspect of the problem carries a big solution according to Ms. Adelaide Awases from the Min of Education and understanding the core principles of Christianity of loving yourself and others with respect can generate that brotherly and sisterly love. Currently, men of both religious and cultural ties are led to believe that a woman is subjected to serve and be a subordinate to her husband following orders without question and it has an influence on abused women, she also believes that introducing the Christian morals in schools will help create a sense of humanity and respect for each other and relationships but Namibia being a secular State, it’s impossible to force everyone into the Christian religion.

Key Question: Does the way Media report desensitize the issue?

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If the media can refrain from calling the victims girlfriends and women often, it can help create a positive feedback from the public – Uakotora Riruako (SRC Unam)

The Media has a critical part to play and the way it’s presented determines how the public will view it especially the youth. At the moment, the victims are looked at as statistics and not significant players in peoples life’s how it affects a household, society, the economy and importantly reputation and integrity of Namibia. The lack of a humanity factor contradicts the values and ethics of journalism and contributes to people especially men escaping the sentimental and seriousness of this crime by directly complimenting the ego of a “macho man” who has dealt with his woman accordingly and as usual, she is at fault either through cheating or dumping him after paying for her studies or supporting her otherwise financially”.

Alcohol and Drug abuse have a direct relation in reported cases presented by Eino Mbango, (survivor of GBV) he shared that most of the time being under the influence of mind-altering substances results in petty fights that eventually turn into gender-based violence cases. The Economical factor has for long served as a gift and curse for women, through becoming financially independent it has allowed many women to be free from dependence on men. However this culture gives birth to the modern woman often referred to as the “Independent Woman”, the less ambitious and unconfident men are intimidated by this kind of woman who mistake her firmness for rudeness, and her I-can-do-it-on-my-own attitude as a sign of disrespect to his manhood and as such exerts violence and aggression to claim their position as a  “MAN”

Comments from the participants touched on the weaknesses in the mitigation strategies put in place. One emphasized that some police officers who are supposed to protect and serve to concur with the man and blame the woman begging the question are they well educated on the topic and its effects? Others mentioned how weak the link between reporting a case, filling in a form while in pain and fear for their life’s to the referral of counseling services that are over incumbent with work. Another participant spoke of how the local culture has a significant contribution and it is evident how deeply rooted this problem is more spoke on educating the younger generation through school from a young age.

My Analysis: Now being a very democratic man, I believe if applied correctly the constitution can solve many of our problems and as Abraham Lincoln once said:

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.The great point is to bring them the real facts”.

Having attended the discussion I learned that keeping a family together and passing on the morals and expected behaviors is a great solution to changing and creating norms. When I consulted the Namibian Constitution I learned about Chapter 3 under Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms Article 14 speaks on Family:

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, color, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, creed or social or economic status shall have the right to marry and to found a family. They shall be entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during (a) marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

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The third point is my main focus, if the Family unit is entitled to protection by society and the State it means it’s partly our responsibility as a society to protect this group. The State has the major role to play with laws, regulations, policies, and frameworks by introducing measures protecting and promoting the family. The media for example who are the textbook of society can take the lead because what they write and put out is what we read and talk about and I believe to a certain extent they should be held accountable when not protecting this unit. To make things easy for both we should look at how the Supreme law puts it by referring to the unit as (The Family) not (A Family) meaning we know exactly what this family looks like leading us to first define what a family in the Namibian Society means, because the old definitions may not be the same. Once we establish the definition it would be easy for government and media together with society to regulate changes protecting ”The Family”.

What does family mean? is it a husband, children, and wife? What about me who has a single parent do we qualify for a family or am I a bastard child? Can we be a family when it’s only a woman in the house or an elderly person? What about an orphan or street kid? What is a Man?  What the are ingredients needed when creating a family? All these questions help create an identity and include not isolate people like how tradition and religion sometimes do, so if cultural beliefs are still instilled I wonder since the customs law can only exist as long as it does not contradict the constitution is it amendable? Conflicting battles between the two keep dividing the continent and finding a balance between them can help solve major future problems.

Empowering female leaders for women to look up to or model themselves after can help them know their worth and not listen to critical partners who look to bring them down. These role models can inspire many women who believe they are not worth much but looking good and dating guys to provide. In essence, if she puts her standards higher and demands a certain type of man that suits our society most men will align themselves to meet those requirements eventually forcing us to behave a certain way.

Last but not least the few examples we have as influencers for women empowerment should also get the spotlight on their journey to where they are now asking questions about educational backgrounds, what challenges faced as a woman and how they were dealt with. When I look at interviews with a few exceptions of women it’s more about their looks, like the First Lady it is all about how well she puts her clothes together and fashion sense? I’m sure she has an interesting story to share too, otherwise it sounds like all she did was look good to get where she is now sending a message to young boys and men that women are only good for their looks and style but I believe there is more to a woman than her body and looks. What we are fighting here is a revolution and challenging norms have always been an amendment mechanism to keep up with the times just like slavery was challenged we have to free women from oppression especially black women who face two oppressions.

What are some ideas you have on solving women oppression?

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