BRIDGE Report 6: Gender and Development in Namibia: a country study

Author: S. Baden, R. Marcus
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Nov 1992
How is a Namibian woman disadvantaged' How can these inequalities be addressed' This report analyses gender discrimination in agriculture, access to land, urban formal and informal employment, education, and health, with particular focus on the black population. The legal and political climate in Namibia supports greater gender equality and there is considerable church-based and NGO development activity that focuses on women. However, these activities rarely reach rural areas where gender discrimination is most pronounced. The adoption of gender-sensitive policies and participatory methods are urgent for NGO and government efforts to improve the situation of women in Namibia.

The status of women in Namibia cannot be understood without taking into account how the system of apartheid has influenced women's lives in terms of gender and race. Women's situations are different depending on where they live, their race and cultural background, with social indicators generally poorer for the rural North. It is difficult to obtain a full picture on gender issues, as very little sex-disaggregated statistical data on social and economic trends in Namibia exists. This report draws on the limited data available, as well as anecdotal but well-substantiated information from the different regions of Namibia. Based on this information, the following conclusions are made: . There are high rates of female-headed households. Evidence suggests that female heads of households are systematically discriminated against in the allocation of and use of land rights, are poorer, and that their girl children have higher school drop-out rates. . Women generally do not have access to credit, particularly in rural areas. . Girls have higher school drop-out rates than boys, and gender stereotyping is common in the curriculum. . Access to health care is very limited in rural areas, and little attention given to HIV/AIDS prevention. The burden of caring for AIDS patients and orphans rests with women. . Women tend to possess fewer skills that enable them to earn an income (the majority of women work in food preparation, street vending, and sewing/ handicraft production) . Black women and their daughters, are especially disadvantaged in relation to all of the above. Prioritising employment, education, health, and housing, which are major areas of common concern among women, might be an effective strategy in supporting the overall empowerment of women in Namibian society. In particular, the following interventions are necessary: . Affirmative action in the formal labour market and improved education and training for women, particularly black women in certain rural areas. . Implementation of measures to improve rural girls enrolment, retention, and performance in school. . Support for women's informal work through credit provision and training in non-traditional skills relevant to the labour market, especially in the rural north. . Securing women's access to, and rights over, land and property, particularly for female heads of households. . Promotion of gender equality at the local level by both the government, donors and NGOs, particularly outside of main urban areas. . Improving quality of health care and increasing emphasis given to HIV/AIDS prevention and support for carers. . Detailed empirical research on gender issues, particularly on natural resource tenure and usage, gender- differentiated income and expenditures, and family law structures and practices. . Longer-term legal reform in areas of marriage and family law, to improve women's economic and other rights, accompanied with legal literacy and advocacy services.