Remarks by Mr. Musinga T. Bandora-UNDP Resident Representative at the 2nd Namibia National Conference on Gender Based Violence

04 Jul 2014

His Excellency Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia

Right Hon. Dr. Hage Geingob, Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to have been invited to speak at this second national conference on gender based violence and I would like to commend the Government of the Republic of Namibia, for its leadership and commitment to addressing this problem.

I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate our sincere gratitude to you Mr. President, to the Government and people of Namibia for the warm and fraternal welcome you accorded to our Secretary General Ban Ki moon during his visit to the country last week.

Mr. President, Honorable Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action notes that “Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture."

That was two decades ago but it remains true in most part of the world including here in Namibia. It is reported that 35% of women worldwide- have experienced gender based violence-including from partners.  In Namibia, over 13,000 cases of gender based violence were reported annually between 2010 and 2012, and during the course of this conference I believe we will hear more.

Gender-based violence reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women.  It is intended to perpetuate male power and control and it is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of abuse in society.

GBV encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls. Any one of these abuses can engrave deep psychological scars; damage the health of women and girls, and at times, results in long term disability and death.

As the UN, we strive to combat gender based violence through the joint efforts of all agencies. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has issued a global call to action to end violence against women, by launching the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. This is further supported by the conclusions of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which emphasize the importance-both of addressing the structural and underlying causes and risk factors in order to prevent such violence and of strengthening multi-sectoral services and programmes for victims. Furthermore, the conclusions also call for continued research and analysis on the causes, cost and risk factors for Gender based violence in order to inform laws, policies and strategies and support awareness raising efforts.

Last week, during his visit to Namibia, the UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki moon reiterated the call for action, by stating “we must end all forms of violence against women and children everywhere, including here. We must all take steps to change harmful gender norms and support the empowerment of women and children.”

Here in Namibia, the UN has been supporting the government in a number of ways to address GBV and we are heartened by the excellent leadership and commitment at the highest political levels. We remain firmly committed to the cause of advancing the status of women and promoting gender equality in the country. The UN’s commitment is stipulated in the recently signed United Nations Partnership Framework which has a specific outcome dedicated to supporting the country on gender inequality and GBV.

Our objective is to support capacity building and strengthen coordination, to support the involvement of men and boys in the response and to ensure that both prevention and support services for survivors are comprehensive and take into account the health, and psychosocial needs of all those involved.

Mr. President, Honorable Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Gender based violence is a complex problem which requires a comprehensive and well coordinated response. One ministry cannot do it alone – indeed the government cannot do it alone. The inter-linkages with poverty, HIV, alcohol, cultural practices and numerous other factors requires that all sectors of society join hands to bring about change. This includes civil society, traditional and faith leaders, schools, development partners and others.  In this regard, I am delighted to learn that the National Gender Coordination Mechanism has been approved by Cabinet and has started its work

We must address the root causes of gender inequality and discrimination. Evidence shows that where the “gender gap” is greater in the status of women’s health, participation in the economy, education levels, and representation in politics women are more likely to be subjected to violence. Especially important is economic empowerment as a prevention strategy.

This means that we need to take a long-term approach to promote a culture of equality between men and women through institutional and legal reform, education, awareness-raising and the full engagement of men and boys.

We must stop violence before it occurs and when it occur, care and support should be availed to the survivors of the physical, psychological and sexual violence.  We need education in schools that teaches gender equality and mutual respect. We must ensure boys and girls are shown appropriate gender roles at home and in public places. We must inspire young people to fight for equality as a human right

As stated in the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women held in New York last March, all States have the responsibility and obligation, to use all means to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls. States must exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence, and provide protection and support for victims and survivors.

Mr. President, Honorable Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am saying all these- fully cognizant that-this is what the country has been doing since its last national GBV conference in 2007. That conference came out with far ranging recommendations around the general theme of Zero Tolerance for GBV. What was critical in those recommendations and remains so today is the need to have a multi-sectoral and multi- pronged approach to ending GBV.

At the time adequate budgetary allocations, integration of GBV into development programmes, alignment of customary laws and practices to civil legislation including making new laws or amending existing ones, as well as involving all stakeholders, were identified as core elements of the “Zero Tolerance for GBV” strategy.

Namibia has prepared the ground. Namibia is signatory to several regional and international legal instruments such as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child among others.

Government also launched the Revised National Gender Policy and the National GBV Plan of Action. The country is working on strengthening the legal provisions and has the established a National Advisory Committee on GBV to address issues related to GBV.  The country has also established a Women and Child Protection Unit, to provide a holistic response to gender based violence-even though the challenge of limited emergency response services-especially with regard to availability of safe havens-needs addressing. Research into GBV and mass campaigns are ongoing.

Yet in spite all these efforts and as noted at the last National Prayer meeting, GBV is increasing. Why are we not seeing the results of all these efforts? May be there is something that we are missing. I hope this Second National Conference will shed more light to this problem. We have all the elements in place. What we need is effective implementation.

Mr. President, Honorable Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To me and in line with the package of measures announced by you Mr. President on 24 February this year, it must be a combination of measures- strengthening and expanding the scope of laws related to GBV-including reviewing of sentencing guidelines, vigorous community policing, effective investigations and prosecution, psycho-social and material support to the victims, grass root and national advocacy and awareness building, as well as women empowerment will lay a firm foundation to ending Gender based violence.

Ultimately, if women are empowered with information, education, skills, and independent means of economic livelihood, they will be less prone to GBV. It is in the re-definition of the economic power relations between the sexes- that we will strengthen the hand of the women victims of GBV.

Let me end here with a quote from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which sums the position of the United Nations with regard to GBV: - "Violence against women must not be tolerated, in any form, in any context or in any circumstance. There can be no exceptions, no excuses and no delay."

I thank you.