Members of Parliament, Elma Dienda (left) and Heather Sibungo (right) at the 140th IPU General Assembly in Doha, Qatar
|Story by George Sanzila
Doha, Qatar - Statistics provided by the IPU Secretariat has shown that women continue to make inroads in politics around the world. As of January 2019, women heads of state accounted for 6.6%, women heads of government at 5.2%, women Speakers of Parliament make up about 19.7% and deputies 28.2%. The percentage of women parliamentarians globally stands at 24.3% and in the sub Saharan region that figure is slightly lower at 23.7%.
These indicators became apparent during The 29th session of the women parliamentarians ahead of the official opening of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Doha, Qatar on Saturday (06/04/19). Issues that were under the microscopic eye of the forum included the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of gender equality.
Namibia is among the countries that have significantly contributed to that increase. It is among the top 10 countries with an increase in women parliamentarians in the world at number seven. In Africa it is second after Rwanda. With a bicameral system of parliament consisting of two houses, the National Assembly has 104 seats of which 48 are occupied by women accounting for over 46%. The National Council with 42 seats has 10 women representatives that translates to over 23%.
The country’s executive branch seems to fall short of expectations though with only five women ministers out of a total of 25, representing just over 20%. The highest ranked country in terms of women in cabinet is Spain at over 64%. Namibia is ranked 97th in the world.
According to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi who is leading the Namibian Parliament delegation, despite the achievements the Namibia should avoid complacency. “We are happy with the progress we have made at parliament. We have one of the highest numbers in the world. However, we cannot stop there. The idea is to get 50/50 and we are not far from achieving that objective”, boasted Katjavivi.
Chairperson of the National Council, Hon. Margaret Mensah Williams, who served for two consecutive terms as a member of the IPU Executive Committee and as President of the IPU Bureau of Women Parliamentarians until March 2018, stated on the side-lines of the women parliamentarians meeting that good progress has been made with regard to the increase of women parliamentarians around the world even though that progress has been slow. She was however happy with what Namibia has achieved. “We have the political will especially in Namibia. Women are now included in all positions. Our aim is not to surpass or outdo our male counterparts. All we want is equality so that we move and work together collectively and take decisions that would impact all of us positively”, noted Mensah Williams.
She disparaged sentiments by some members of the Namibian society who have doubted the competence of women MPs as mere patriarchal tendencies. “That argument has no substance at all. Do our male counterparts produce their qualifications when they enter parliament? Has there been a comparative study that has informed us that women in parliament are incompetent compared to their male counterparts? Asked Mensah Williams rhetorically.
Similar sentiments were shared by Hon. Katjavivi who believes that both men and women MPs are equally competent. “We don’t buy that idea. If men are able to get into parliament without any particular effort, why should this not apply to women? I am convinced that our women are equally competent to make a contribution as parliamentarians”, said the Speaker.
Other lawmakers forming part of the Namibian Parliament delegation include National Assembly MP, Hon. Heather Sibungo and National Council lawmakers, Hon. Phillipus Katamelo and Hon. Rosalia Shilenga. The IPU Assembly is a global organization of parliaments that brings together parliamentarians to identify international challenges and make recommendations for action.