“Democratic Namibia: fact or fiction?”April 10th, 2017
Democracy is the practice or principle of social equality, writes Ros Limbo, 26, a Correspondent from Windhoek, Namibia, and has been well established by some African countries. However, she looks at those who have been left behind, and calls for more thorough application of democratic principles.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says Africa: corruption; poor leadership; or dismissal of basic human rights?
This is what many think of the African continent. Some have argued that democracy has not worked for Africa and its people because it is viewed as a “borrowed” concept that does not match African traditions. Africa is seen as a chaotic continent that has failed to move past the scramble for power, resulting in many on the continent living below the poverty line.
However, countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia have been seen as leading examples in democracy and development. As a country of less than 2.5 million people, Namibia is regarded as a shining example of how to implement and maintain democracy on the African continent. As one of the youngest countries on the continent, Namibia has accumulated a GDP of USD 11.49 billion in its 27 years of independence. This success can be attributed to the fact that Namibia has implemented policies and procedures to mitigate corruption in both the private and public sector. Its press freedom and liberal nature has made Namibia very attractive to foreign investors; which has added to the country’s fast growth.
But one is tempted to ask how many Namibians have seen and benefited from this growth?
With an unemployment rate of 28.7%, Namibia might be seen as doing better than most African countries. But with a population of about 2.3 million, many Namibians live below the poverty line. This perpetual poverty means that the next generation inherits the inability to access quality education and healthcare. The country has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates among pregnant women in the world. High levels of poverty and poor education mean that many young women are left vulnerable to issues such as child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
After taking the above into consideration, one would think that those in power would be sensitive to the plight of women in the country. However, there have been increasing examples of male chauvinism that have left many wondering if Namibia is a country that strives for the emancipation of women. Many were outraged when Namibian police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga threatened to arrest women who wore miniskirts, as they were unAfrican. This literal policing of the female body made it seem as though women are objects which could be ruled over by men.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) and revenge porn in Namibia has shown that women are not fully protected in society. Although many cases of GBV are reported, a majority are withdrawn before the culprit is prosecuted. There are limited facilities to counsel and treat women with battered woman syndrome or any other mental effects that manifest from GBV. Moreover, cases are withdrawn because women feel as though police cannot or will not protect them. Increasing instances of revenge porn in the country have cemented this idea amongst many. The justice minister of Namibia tabled the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Crime Bill in attempt to curb instances of revenge porn. But what mechanisms are there currently to protect the women of Namibia as the wait continues for this bill to become law?
A democratic society promises to uphold equality and fairness in all areas of life. With an increasing GDP, Namibia is in a better position to ensure that none of its people live below the poverty line. The country should move away from the idea of grants and move towards quality education and healthcare. Psychology and sociology should be amongst the priority fields of study. Having more experts from these fields of study will equip government with the tools to tackle the social ills in our country.
About me: I’m a young Namibian working as an auditor in the country’s capital. I am an unapologetic feminist who loves to write and practice yoga. Mental health awareness is something close to my heart; I advocate for ending stigma and creating better care facilities for those with mental illnesses. In future I hope to become a fulltime writer on issues surrounding feminism and mental health.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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