lundi, 15 octobre 2018

The Role of Women in Namibia

Women resistance against colonialism in Namibia dates back to 1904, when Herero women voluntarily launched their historic ‘sexual intercourse strike’ to pressurize men to fight and end German occupation (Clever & Wallace, 1990, p. 80). They vowed that they would not bear children until the war against German settlers was over. However their resistance against the new South Africa regime, that had overthrown German occupation in 1915, took a more direct confrontation. On December 10, 1959, the Namibian women under the leadership of SWANU led an overt resistance to South Africa ’s forceful land confiscation policy in Windhock. On that day the South African forces opened fire, killing twelve people and injuring 54. As in Zimbabwe where Nehanda took the lead, the SWANU leadership during the 1959 demonstration included Kakurukaze Mungunda, a woman militant who marched side by side with other nationalists such as Sam Nujoma, Ngavi Muundjua, Aaron Tjatindi, Moses Garoeb, David Meroro and Johny Ya otto and Mutumbulwa. Kakurukaze was gunned down and became one of the first women martyrs of South African brutality. Today, December 10 is official day in Namibia which is commemorated in honor of Mungunda and those other people who were killed. It is also the day when people resolved to adopt the armed struggle as the only response.

“She was hit by a bullet in the chest ; realizing that she had been fatally wounded, Mama Mungunda…stumbled, despite profuse bleeding, towards a parked car belonging to the (white) superintendent of the city and managed to set it ablaze with a box of matches. Shortly thereafter she died…It is a tribute to the bravery and heroism of Kakurukaze Mungunda, that SWAPO has designated 10 December Namibia’s Women’s Day.” Potuse Appollus a woman activist would say later that she saw in the Windhoek massacre a change in the nature of women resistance as they “activated the hitherto patient force imbodied in the indomitable willpower” of the Namibian women. Following this massacre, Nujoma’s labor movement broke away from SWANU which was reluctant to take up the armed struggle and reconstituted itself into SWAPO which eventually led the Namibian masses to freedom through an armed liberation war. But unlike in Zimbabwe , where women had always been part of the ‘Second Chimurenga,’ the Namibian women were not fully energized into a vibrant combat force at the early stage of the war. For example, the SWAPO Women Council (SWC) was not formed until 1969, but then only among the exiled community until in 1980 when the first SWC congress was held in Angola . At this meeting demands were made for changes within SWAPO to “recognize the women’s participation in all aspects of the struggle and to share leadership” (Cleaver and Wallace, ibid, p.81). But as Sparks and Green (1992) confirm, the policy of SWAPO women in combat role was questioned by men at first. But since the SWAPO’s 1989 election manifesto mentions very limited roles for women in the army of an independent Namibia, it confirms earlier assumptions that the partys “role for women in combat was always considered extraordinary.” (p.143), despite Namibian women’s commitment to participate actively. The ratio of Namibian women to men in the army today ought to be an issue of affirmative action just like in the other sectors of government service..

“At the launching of the armed struggle in 1966, there were only a handful of women in the movement in exile. But within the last 20 years, the women have become visible in practically every aspect of the struggle” (SWC), 1987).

by Rukee E. Tjingaete

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