Over the decades of her public service, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation grew to prominence as a staunch advocate of women’s rights.
We find the new position of Nandi-Ndaitwah against comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), a total contradiction to her erstwhile claim to fame as an advocate for women.
Sexuality education for young girls and women is the first step towards their empowerment. Women must make choices about their bodies and their futures.
We fail to see a logical reason for Namibia’s #1 international women empowerment advocate to shift gears and withdraw support for an educational framework that empowers women and girls.
Is there internal political pressure from those opposed to women having reproductive rights? Is there some interfering outside right-wing conservative pressure behind it?
The Comprehensive Sexuality Education Programme as per the United Nations Population Fund (www.unfpa.org) is a programme to develop gender-equitable relationships. It has been developed to promote and protect human rights. It seeks to generate values of tolerance, non-discrimination and civic engagement. It is detailed learning content on aspects of reproductive health and wellbeing.
CSE influenced curricula could be adapted to include tools for young girls to deal with the issue of rape. girls can learn about how to manage incest, inappropriate touching, and molestation by people close to them. This sounds like the kind of program Ndaitwah would normally embrace.
What is really happening here?
The Deputy Prime Minister proclaims some ‘good aspects’ of the CSE. And yet, she wants an education guideline that “steers away from engaging in elements that may be considered illegal.” Now what euphemism is that? Is she referring to LGBTQI issues? Is she calling people with non-mainstream sexual orientation illegal? Or is she referring to reproductive rights? Is she saying that this is the illegality embodied in CSE?
Groups that bring free sanitary pads to rural schools across the nation are reporting that many of the girls they meet do not understand what their periods are. They do not link periods to pregnancy. They do not know what a uterus or eggs or fallopian tubes are. They do not understand about sperm and how it fertilizes and egg. This is insanity.
Government and families must be held responsible for this level of ignorance in our girls and young women. This is the main reason for the explosion in unplanned pregnancies and the second class status of women in Namibia.
By pulling away from the CSE, Namibia has announced to the world that the Land of the Brave is a country that is retrogressive. Right wing conservatives (the same people who fought against Namibian independence), über-Christians (the same who defended apartheid) should be pleased. Namibia has also shown the world that we do not READ treaties before we sign them.
The CSE goals have not changed since this country signed on in the first place. Where was the national discussion and inputs from affected communities before such a policy shift? Why is Ndaitwah doing it quick, fast and under-the-table?
One of the most dis-empowering things for a woman is to have unwanted babies one after the other. When this baby mill happens without education on birth control or access to information about other options, it is not an empowered life.
Unwanted pregnancies lead to unwanted babies. We have a disgraceful, inhuman baby dumping plague in Namibia. We have school girls giving birth. There are women with babies from 2-3 different men. We have children growing up unattended, unsupervised and unloved. This is wrong if the women giving birth are not making informed choices. We need more sexuality education, not less.
The moral and ethical priorities of a community are learned in the home. Parents must get out of the useless cultural ‘traditions’ of not talking about sex with their children. The kids are learning it online and from each other; they are learning wrong things. Ignorance is never better than knowing.
The CSE is a guideline, not a curriculum nor is it a mandate. Member states can adapt the guidelines to fit their structures. A country can still embrace CSE while making their traditions, priorities and culture reflected in program implementation. So why pull out?
Ndaitwah must explain her flip-flop on women empowerment. Her current position against the CSE is a sad contradiction.