In Defence of 5050 Gender Balance

Women’s Solidarity Namibia director Rosa Namises says men should not think that the purpose of the 5050 gender quota adopted by Swapo, which would see men and women in the party represented equally in all party structures, is to leave men behind and bring women to the forefront.

Namises was reacting to political commentator Professor Joseph Diescho who said last week at a public lecture that gender parity is a matter of economic survival whereby for some able-bodied men their only job is in politics and they would claim they have fought for the liberation of the country.

She said that men have for long been in a comfort zone where they have amassed wealth and had access to tenders and power to make decisions, while women were not paid for the work they did.

“We are not saying men should not participate. Politics is their thing, but some don’t do it properly either,” she said, adding that it is better for both men and women to work together so that those with capabilities can take charge.

Graham Hopwood of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), who also attended the lecture titled ‘5050 Gender Balance a Challenge for Namibia’ said that Diescho repeated for the second time that the 5050 gender quota was unconstitutional while it was not the case.

Hopwood said that Article 10 says no person may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex (gender), however Article 23 on Apartheid and Affirmative Action says that Article 10 should not be used to prevent the aancement of people disaantaged by past discriminatory practices.

“In particular, Article 23 says that women suffered special discrimination and they need to be encouraged and enabled to play a full, equal and effective role in the political life of the nation. Legislation like the Employment Equity Act has been drafted and implemented on the basis of Article 23 and no one has claimed it is unconstitutional,” Hopwood emphasised, adding that 5050 was definitely in accordance with the letter and spirit of Article 23.

Hopwood further said that the 5050 gender quota was not undemocratic, because it was essentially about ensuring that citizens play a full, equal and effective role in the country’s politics and given the common understanding that women have been, and are being, subjected to discrimination, it seems fairly obvious that promoting the aancement of women is a democratic action.

Hopwood said that it was important to remember that women are not a minority and are in fact a slight majority and therefore the argument that once 5050 has been applied for women Namibia will have to introduce quotas for lots of other minorities, such as ethnic groups, does not hold water.

Gender activist, Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi joined the chorus saying that any party that is serious about the quality of representation in parliament would provide support structures such as research assistance, training on public speaking, ICT training to both male and female MPs to help ensure they make the most of their presence in parliament.

“Like so many previous moments for evolution of the human race, gender equality is likely to be opposed. People resisted the end of slavery. People resisted the end of colonization. People resisted the end of apartheid. It is not surprising the end of gender apartheid (gender inequality) is resisted,” he said.

“Yes, it will not happen overnight, but it will eventually become a reality on earth, else we might as well go back to the days of ‘baas and kaffir’,” he charged, adding that women can be empowered to play a practical, contributing role in life.

Source : New Era