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Women's Economic Empowerment

By Cde. Fransina Ndateelela Kahungu
The theme for this year's International Women's day which was celebrated on the 8th March is "Equality for women is progress for all". There is therefore a need to capacitate women in order for them to participate in, contribute to and benefit from, particularly, the country's social and economic growth processes in ways that can significantly add value to national development.

In return, the national economic growth will make the whole community to progress. There is therefore a continuous need for women to be empowered economically so that they can have access to economic resources and opportunities such as skills development, jobs, financial services, property, productive assets and market information.

When women are given opportunities to fully take part and empowered economically these will result in strengthening their rights and in the end make them have control over their lives as well as the ability to influence positive changes in their communities. Strategies for Women Empowerment The road to achieve women's economic empowerment might not be easy. It will take a holistic approach and long-term commitment from all development actors. Therefore, all development actors need to reach out and support women in their quest to grab opportunities that are available in their community environment. In Namibia a number of strategies can be looked at to achive this purpose:

Provision of skills: One motivation for women's empowerment is basic fairness and decency. Women should have the exact same opportunities that men do to lead full and productive lives. Aggrey puts it clear that:

"Educate a man and you educate one person, educate a woman and you educate a nation", Kwagyir Aggrey. Therefore, let us empower economically "our" nation.

This is a prerequisite for sustainable development and propoor growth. Women usually invest a higher proportion of their income in their families and communities than men. Thus, increasing the role of women in the economy is part of the solution to the financial and economic crises and also it is critical for economic progress and growth.

Economic empowerment should aim to reach poor women who are landless labourers, smallholder agriculture producers, domestic workers and ensure that these women have access to the opportunities and benefits of economic growth and trade. However, we should be mindful of challenges when working with the poorest women with lower level of literacy, lower level of access to and control over resources, lower level of access to networks and people who can assist and support and also greater vulnerability of sexual exploitation and abuse at the community level, if not the household level.

These challenges require all development actors to take account of the specific needs of the poorest women in design of developmental programmes. Provision of knowledge and equipment to women farmers could increase national agricultural outputs and inputs. It is therefore important to offer training and skills development programs to women in order for them to be able to realize their potentials in their communities.

Rural women should be organized and trained in production methods that can make their work easier and deliver same products better and faster. Women village cooperatives can, e.g. be trained in how to acquire and use the mahangu crashing machines for the use in their village.

Business development:
Studies suggest that putting earnings in women's hands is the intelligent thing to do to speed up development and the process of overcoming poverty. Women usually invest a higher proportion of their income in their families and communities than men.

Thus, increasing the role of women in the economy is part of the solution to the financial and economic crises and also it is critical for economic progress and growth. Therefore support for women's enterprises be increased to enhance employment opportunities for women living in poverty. Women need assistance in identify business opportunities in their areas. Very often women in the rular areas live in the environment full of resources such as marula fruits, devils claw, river water, tourists, etc. With public or private technical support these resources can be developed into viable business.

Financial support:
Many a times, women, particularly in the towns and cities, have small scale incomegenerating activities which do not grow into a strong and viable business. Therefore, government agencies and Departments, Donors and business people should make provision in their programmes to assist women's activities.

This can be done only when women have access to the full range of credit, banking and financial services and facilities, essential to fully develop their productive assets, their land and their businesses. To this end, I am humbly requesting banks to easy the process for women to access the credit which is needed to invest in expanding their activities.

Moral support:
Moral support from all leaders in public offices, business, Educational Institutions, International agencies, National Non governmental Organisations and the media, will highly encourage women to continue doing better what they do no matter how small it is.

We have women who are involved or who intend to be involved in, e.g. farming with chicken or pigs. They are interested to visit and tour such farming facilities to learn from others. This arrangement will greatly enhance their knowledge and will give them encouragement to go ahead with such projects. We, as the SWAPO Women council are calling on relevant individuals, organisations and agencies to offer their support to these women.

Impact of Women Empowerment Employment creation, Women who are empowered will create jobs for themselves, their families and the communities around them.

Poverty eradication
In Windhoek over 60% of households are headed by women. In Katutura the small women "kapana" businesses offer food, clothing, and other services to the Katutura residents.

Current estimates are that more than 5,000 women small businesses are involved in Windhoek. Through their small businesses these women are supporting about 25,000 other persons in Namibia. This is therefore a clear indication that the support to women will definitely contribute to
- poverty eradication.

- Strengthening of peace and order in communities Women are brought up as peaceful and loving people.
They will pass on these traits to their children.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura