Without any doubt, women in Namibia have made noticeable inroads into local politics. Not only that our government activities are coordinated by a woman prime minister, but Namibia also boasts a large number of female lawmakers.
However, statistics on the ground show we are many miles away before Namibia attains gender parity in political leadership.
The provisional list of candidates for the upcoming regional council and local authority elections has just confirmed this. A majority of candidates running for regional and local government officials are men – 423 in total, with only 70 women running for office.
Disturbing news from the regions have been seeping through the media about how women were overlooked during the nomination process.
Fewer women have been put up for the regional council elections.
The share of women in regional government is already poor, with a minimal 14%. We are affirming with everyone else that gender parity in political participation and representation is of paramount importance.
As who to apportion the blame is a difficult question to answer. But the fact remains that women are not receiving the necessary support to fully participate in politics.
It is also worth the emphasis that women need to stand up; they must take up the mantle and start mobilising their peers, including men, regarding their political interests.
They should start pushing for workable mechanisms that increase their representation in political leadership.
Instead of looking up to their male counterparts to push their interests, women need to push their political parties to review internal policies to enhance their representation.
For instance, women in the ruling party Swapo need to push for the review of the party’s zebra-style. This mechanism may have worked well at the cabinet, parliamentary – and to a certain extent, local authority levels. It was a historic moment when Swapo adopted the zebra-style in 2013.
Unfortunately, the nomination of all-male candidates for the regional council elections in Oshana region shows the policy needs to be reviewed.
Regional and local councillors are tasked with challenging roles of lobbying for local issues.
So, having equal participation and representation of women and men can lead to better decision-making.
It is our belief that women politicians are able to actively push for solutions to social issues among their colleagues at regional and local government.
They are well aware of the consequences of lack of proper housing, sanitation, clean water and unemployment.
They are well aware of why children need to get an education, the importance of youth empowerment and food production. As a result, women are uniquely positioned to push for workable solutions to address many of the social challenges in our society.
We need their voices; we need their intelligence. We need their compassion; we need their motherly instinct – we need them at the table.