Are you a feminist, minister Kazenambo? Sister Namibia spoke with honourable minister Kazenambo Kazenambo, minister of youth, national service, sport and culture about feminism, culture and modern society.
(Laws, regulations and rules)
Youth (Laws, regulations and rules)
Women's rights (Laws, regulations and rules)
|Publication:||Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126|
|Issue:||Date: Oct, 2010 Source Volume: 22 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation|
|Product:||Product Code: E121930 Youth|
How does your Ministry assess the situation of women's rights
in Namibia today?
We are not a government on our own; we are part of the Namibian government and are guided by our gender policies. We have good laws that protect the fundamental human rights of women and children. At a constitutional level, Namibia is one of the best places you can find on earth. Namibia also has an open environment at policy level.
But societies are dynamic and evolving structures. While some societies are open and quick in embracing change, others are stagnant or react differently to different stages of development. To be honest: The majority of people in this country are conservative. They will sing national unity in public, but deep down they are still chauvinistic, tribal, xenophobic and homophobic. Our founding president used to preach 50/50. But we used to gossip about him and nicknamed him 50/50 behind his back. Some pretend to be open for political convenience - to be popular, to speak the language and to play to the gallery. But when they retreat into their comfort zones, they become who they really are. This is true for both men and women.
But I am not blame-focused, I am solution oriented. And if you are solution oriented you don't pretend, because reality does not pretend - reality presents itself as it is. And the reality is: As much as we would like to be an open society, we are still predominantly tribal, traditional, and patriarchal. While at a national and policy level we have everything it takes for a plural, open society, at a practical level we are not open to embrace change.
Why is this so?
Our minds, attitudes and behaviours are rooted in and influenced by our different cultures, whether we like them or not, and also the social, economic and political challenges which women and girls are facing are often influenced and caused by cultural values and understanding.
For example, in my Otjiherero culture, when I die, my heritage traditionally goes to my nephews, while the Constitution now says that my heritage should go to my wife and children. But you will find that even my educated sister will be on the front line to abuse her fellow women in cases of heritage. And this unfortunately also manifests itself in politics. If you go to our SWAPO congresses, you will find that the women do not vote for one another. This is a cultural influence that comes from home.
What do you think needs to happen?
We have to understand why women are doing this to each other. Colonialism treated both men and women as non-entities, but women were doubly oppressed - by the system and by the culture that was supposed to protect them. Women in our society have had no authority over anything or anyone else, and now some try to exert their authority to the detriment of their own kind. If you grow up under oppression and violence, you tend to become oppressive and violent yourself. Because you have been so much deprived of opportunities, you deny opportunities to others with the first chance you get. It is like black on black oppression which has no civility, no rule, and which is barbaric.
It is sad when you find that the oppressed become the oppressors. We went to fight apartheid, but today we find that we want to replicate the same system that we fought. We say, we are one Namibia and one nation, but where do appointments reflect the Namibia rainbow? Where are the women? We must arrive at a point where we feel truly guilty when a colour is missing in our rainbow and where not having 50/50 representation of women and men in politics is seen as a crime.
What in your understanding does it mean 'to be a man' in Namibia today?
If I am a man, I must be strong. I must be intelligent. And I feel threatened, when I am sitting in front of a very intelligent young woman. I must be the one who owns things, and I lose confidence, when my girlfriend or wife has a rewarding job. Instead of welcoming this, I feel intimidated, threatened and disowned. It is the cultural attitude that society must be led by men which prevents assertive women to advise and lead.
Why is this not changing?
Because we suppress openness and we don't address the 'why'. We are not taught to ask why -because when you ask 'why', you are challenging the situation. - Even a child must grow up asking questions. It is a fundamental right to ask and to be given answers.
What needs to happen to ensure that this consciousness develops especially among young Namibians?
Namibia needs to become a plural and open democratic society. We must learn to live and co-exist with differences and with people of different cultural and political persuasions. Feminism must be part of this open society; nobody in an open society should be locked up or silenced. I am ready to engage with feminists in a debate about their issues, because they will enrich the process. I embrace and enjoy diversity.
Are you a feminist?
I am not a feminist, but I have many friends, inside and outside Namibia, who are. Some are even fanatic feminists, and I enjoy their company, because I want to understand their language and their expectations. Some of their points boil down to human rights, some points simply say: let us share opportunities and respect me as a human being, not as an object. I wouldn't like to be treated like an object, and if another person says 'don't treat me like an object', I will definitely sympathise with that person.
But feminists also have to be prepared to live alongside non-feminists and hear what constitutes their world. As an open society we must also allow voices to be heard that we don't like to hear and understand their motivations.
Feminism must exist. Tradition and culture must exist. Tribes and people of different colours cannot be wished away, women and men and people choosing to become gays and lesbians cannot be wished away. Namibia has emerged from a period of oppression and repression and has decided to be a pluralistic society, and therefore all these differences must be accommodated.
Let the people make their own choices and let society accept them. Let us internalize laws and policies that guide our fundamental human rights. I believe in liberty, and I believe that liberties are not exchangeable; they are a birth right, as long as I am working within the parameters of the law.
The interview was conducted by Sheena Magenya and Magano Neri.
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