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Engendering local government.

In the Local Authority elections held on 14th May, women gained 45 percent of the seats on local councils in Namibia. Women's representation thus increased by roughly four percent from the 41.3 percent gained in the 1998 elections. While this is cause to celebrate, campaigners for substantive gender equality have made it clear that they will not rest until true gender balance in positions of decision making has been achieved, as called for in the National Gender Policy of our country.

For example, in a letter published in the media directly after the elections, Veronica de Klerk of Women's Action for Development stated that while political parties had put forward gender balanced zebra-style party lists in the villages and smaller towns, they had favoured male candidates for the top positions of their lists in the bigger towns, thereby denying women the chance to gain experience at this level. She charged that when men were first elected to such positions they had had no experience, but that now women were required to demonstrate experience even before they have been elected.

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She urged government to legislate for zebra party lists, with women heading the lists in recognition of the fact that women constitute more than 51% percent of the population and more than 52% of the electorate. She further called on government to legislate for quotas in the forthcoming Regional Authority and National Assembly elections. Namibia currently has a shameful 4 percent women elected at the regional level! Finally, de Klerk urged women to "act like a majority and not like a minority who begs for favours ..."

One week before the Local Authority elections a national workshop of the Namibian Women's Manifesto Network, which brought together women from 30 towns and villages across the country, visited the Windhoek Municipality to present an Open Letter to the Local Authorities in Namibia. The Open Letter called on local councils to implement the National Gender Policy at the local level. The Network members then took this letter back to their towns and villages to present to their local councils there and begin a dialogue on how women's groups and organisations can work together from now with their local councils to engender local government. The Network members will provide feedback at the next national workshop in September on the responses of their local councils.
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Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:391
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