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FUTURE CHALLENGES
GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT

photo of children

GR&AP feels that the following areas of focus are necessary during the next 5 to 10 years in order to consolidate gains made, to move sexual equality more deeply into the family arena and to ensure that the existing reforms are effective in practice and not just on paper.

1. IMPLEMENTATION
One key area of work concerns implementation.

For example, we have completed extensive studies of the operation of the Combating of Rape Act 8 of 2000 (Rape in Namibia), Combating of Domestic Violence Act (Seeking Safety) and the Maintenance Act (Maintenance Matters). More work is needed to realise the recommendations in these reports.

We expect similar implementation concerns to arise with new and forthcoming legislation, such as the sexual harassment provisions in the Labour Act and forthcoming laws on children.

2. PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING & AWARENESS
A second concern is public understanding and awareness of legal rights. It is in this area that we have been trying to combine information about old and new laws with training in advocacy techniques, to help women know their rights and feel comfortable about asserting them.

One avenue we would like to explore more strategically is the use of radio to reach more people at grassroots level with information about gender-related laws and how to use them – particularly through the use of the various indigenous language services which are very popular. We also want to continue to produce written materials that are simple to understand but at the same time interesting to read and information. The series of comics we are producing has been extremely well received.

3. ADDITIONAL LAW REFORMS
A third area of importance is additional law reforms. The entire legal framework on children’s rights is in the process of being overhauled.

Children’s Status Act deals with the rights of children born outside marriage and children left without legal guardians. It will soon be followed by the Child Care & Protection Bill, which will address a wide range of issues relating to children in need of care or protection.

The government’s Law Reform & Development Commission has released reports on divorce and on the recognition of customary marriage (using GR&AP research as a starting point), and work on marital property issues and intestate succession is underway, with the Gender Research & Advocacy Project and the Law Reform and Development Commission working closely together on these projects.

Other areas under investigation are the rights and responsibilities of step-parents and step-children (as step-children are at present a vulnerable group) and possible legal approaches to cohabitation. Read an article from our archive (2001): What steps to take for step-children.

Getting appropriate law reforms in place to serve the interests of women in extremely personal areas of life is sure to be an uphill battle, given the fact that gender stereotypes are so strongly alive and well in Namibia. The work needed in this area is research (field research combined with research on laws in other countries) to develop law reform proposals, and advocacy to ensure that Parliament enacts laws which will serve the needs of Namibia women, men and children.

4. SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR WORK
Because our work targets society’s most vulnerable, the clients and communities we represent cannot usually pay for our services or our publications. At the same time, the costs of producing publications and conducting research and public outreach are steadily climbing. Donor funding is difficult to obtain, and our small staff has to spend a large amount of time on fund-raising, sometimes at the expense of our other work.  If you would like to make a donation to the Legal Assistance Centre, please click here.

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