WINDHOEK, Mar. 19 – Namibia’s 41% female representation in Parliament is a remarkable achievement and something that is to be desired, even in the United States of America, according to the US Ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson.
“Namibia boasts an impressive quality framework,” said Johnson during a Women’s Day celebration event last week, adding: “And Namibia’s 41% female representation in Parliament is a remarkable achievement – and something that I hope to see one day in my own country.”
“In fact, this year’s theme is #PressforProgress. It reminds us that if we want to see change, we have to work actively to make it happen.” – US Ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson.
The month of March is recognised as ‘Women’s History Month’ in the US, according to Johnson, and while International Women’s Day was first recognised in 1911 as a strategy to promote equal rights (more than a century ago,) the efforts made by women with regards to areas of human endeavour: political, economic, and social have culminated in positive strides.
Johnson said the day remained relevant as the press for gender equality was concerned, quoting United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who said: “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”
She added, “In fact, this year’s theme is #PressforProgress. It reminds us that if we want to see change, we have to work actively to make it happen. Those among us tonight are leaders, influencers, role-models, and opinion-makers in Namibia.”
The US Ambassador to Namibia stressed that volumes of Namibian children who entered the education system was a positive sign for the future, though she also pointed out that a possible hiccup could be the lack to retain girls at the same rate of boys within the education sector.
“Another positive sign is the entry of Namibia’s children into the education system. While it sadly remains true that schools do not retain girls at the same rate as boys, the critical starting point is there: in Grade 1, boys and girls are making it to school in equal numbers,” she said.
Johnson also touched on challenges that women faced in Namibia that included a high incidence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), as well as economic disparities, which she admitted that America had faced.
“Because countries experience similar challenges with gender equality, we are able to work from common ground in coming together to ask one another – ‘How we can help address these problems? What can we do to change these realities?'”
One of the GBV outreach campaigns that has caught her eye in Namibia, was the LifeLine/ChildLine: “it is not my story, it is our story.”
“Those words were chosen well. Gender-based violence is not only the story of individuals. It is the story of communities. And it is the story of countries, including my own,” she said.
Turning to central linkages on gender-based response, Johnson said health and HIV status were not to be underestimated.
She said, “The evidence is very clear on linkages between gender-based violence and HIV. Namibia has made significant strides in addressing the HIV epidemic. As we offer help to improve the lives of those infected with HIV, we also must consider long-term health challenges.”
Johnson alluded to statistics that revealed that women living with HIV were five-times more likely to develop cervical cancer; a cancer largely preventable and easily identified through regular screenings.
However, she expressed her pleasure at the steps that the Namibian government was taking toward screening cervical cancer.
“Namibia is taking steps to screen women for cervical cancer, and I’m pleased that the U.S government, through PEPFAR, will provide support to link HIV-positive women to cervical cancer screening and treatment.”
In addition, this year’s PEPFAR support to Namibia will include an additional two million U.S. dollars to provide cervical cancer screening and same day treatment of pre-cancerous lesions to all HIV positive women.
“With the Namibian government’s commitment, and our partnership through PEPFAR, I am confident that more women in Namibia will receive the services they need to remain cancer-free,” said Johnson.
Speaking on the DREAMS initiative, Johnson emphasised that change was needed in other areas as well, as globally, young women were up to 14 times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men.
“We are committed to changing this statistic. For that reason, I am especially excited that Namibia is now a DREAMS country.”
DREAMS is funded through PEPFAR, and aims to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.
It addresses the structural drivers that increase girls’ HIV risk, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and a lack of education.
” DREAMS already is having an impact across Africa. In the first 10 DREAMS countries, two-thirds of the highest-HIV-burden communities achieved a 25 to 40 percent reduction in new HIV diagnoses among young women,” she explained. – email@example.com