Source: The Namibian

The Namibian Defence Force (NDF) wants to consist of at least 30% women and so maintain Namibia's pioneering status in the creation of the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

According to defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo 5% of the NDF's management portfolios are women, while the entire force's women representation is 23%.

"We are aiming for 30% soon and eventually will have half of the force consist of women," he told The Namibian at the official opening of the gender mainstreaming seminar on gender, governance, peace and security at Swakopmund yesterday.

Ya Ndakolo said the aim of the seminar was to create an understanding of the nature, context and processes of the "gender mainstreaming" programme in order to address specific inequalities and gaps that still exist.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security on 31 October 2000. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, peace negotiations, peace building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction, and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates, with implications for member states (of which Namibia is one) and the entities of the UN system.

Deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said Resolution 1325 came from Namibia and therefore "we must be proud and ensure it is implemented".

According to her, the idea of the important role women played in conflict resolution and the maintenance of peace started at home where the mother is the one who manages to resolve conflict between children and keep the peace in the family. She also said she witnessed the peaceful effect women had at certain forums during the liberation struggle.

"When I introduced this important role women could play to the Security Council, it was completely rejected. They said women were not a security issue but a social issue. We persisted, though, and started lobbying and won the confidence of Unicef and other groups, which eventually strengthened our proposal that was finally adopted," she told attendants at the seminar.

The resolution highlights the positive role played by women in conflict resolution, instead of just being victims, and it opened the doors for the involvement of women in many sectors of society, not just in uniform.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said in September this year there will be a special review of the resolution to consider its mode of implementation and monitoring to gauge its integration, and to look at funding to facilitate the implementation of the resolution.

"These elements are necessary to ensure that the full potential of the resolution is realised," she said.

She said that a "critical mass" of at least 30% of women was required and once the effectiveness of women's role is seen as making a positive impact, the ratio could increase to 50%.

"Most decisions are by consensus and this is why a critical mass is important," she said. "This was seen in our government's success in increasing the place of women."

She said that gender mainstreaming within the defence force was also important to men as it allows men to share the heavy load of responsibility "to save the world" with the women.

"This will lead to fewer suicides by men who feel so responsible and become suicidal when they feel they have failed.

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