Hon. Eunice Iipinge, MP (standing) addresing the workshop
|Story by Pamela Mate
This week, the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), together with the Parliament of Namibia organised a working session of the women parliamentary caucuses. The aim of the workshop was to determine the value of women caucuses in parliament, the challenges, goals and objectives as well as a road map for the Namibian Parliamentary Women Caucus. This engagement is the first for the joint Women Caucus of the National Assembly and the National Council after the two bodies became one under a common umbrella, now known as the Parliamentary Women Caucus, with the common aim of advancing women issues at Parliament level. The Caucus is chaired by Hon. Eunice Iipinge from the National Assembly.
Consolate Munga and Masheti Masinjila, the IPU experts from Kenya who conducted the workshop touched on key issues with regards to running a functioning and responsive women caucus by giving best practices from other parts of the world, engaging the Members of Parliament on key questions such as, why women’s Parliamentary bodies are useful, defining a purpose of such a body and challenges to overcome, amongst many others.
The need for establishing a Parliamentary Women Caucus was clearly defined. This committee plays a crucial role in that they establish cross party cooperation by uniting women from different parties around issues they can all support. They mainstream gender issues into parliament business, increase women's influence in parliament, build capacity of women MPs as well as redefine political priorities of a country. However, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Women Caucus, Hon. Eunice Iipinge said a major challenge is the traditional and cultural set up of African societies that promote patriarchy. Hon. Iipinge expressed that because a boy child is brought up differently from a girl child, the psychological interpretation is that the boy is better suited for a leadership position, something she said needed to be addressed. Other contributions from the floor where also to re-look the Electoral Act and ensure that a gender quota is made provision for to include more women at all levels of government, and not only when at the National Assembly.
The gathering touched on many factors, such as the long and short term goals of women parliamentary caucuses, which include, amending laws to ensure inclusivity, cooperation with grassroots women organizations, speaking up for voiceless communities, empowering each other and improving contributions in the house, changing community opinion on women in leadership, changing misconception that leadership is men territory and increasing the chances of education and equality for next generation.
The 2 day workshop also had presentations and interactive discussions from male MPs. Hon. Phillipus Katamelo from the National Council And Rapporteur Of Namibia's CEDAW Seminar gave a presentation on How To Strengthen Coordination Between The Caucus Of Both Chambers Of Parliament, identifying that this was not only a call for women, but for men as well who must partner up with women in ensuring gender parity at all levels.
The 2 day workshop concluded on Tuesday, 19 February and is now following up with research and interviews of both MPs and support staff. Information from the interviews will help in compiling a working document with recommendations for the Namibian Parliament Women Caucus. The IPU experts from Kenya say Namibia has successfully enabled women to be represented at high political level. They note the importance of a women caucus as enabling women's voices to be heard, strengthening capacity for mutual support as well as to better contribute to the work of Parliament and look at the budget and other important documents of Parliament.