GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
The Maintenance Act 9 of 2003 was the culmination of some eight years of advocacy by GR&AP and other NGOs.
Following an extensive two-year study, in 1995 GR&AP published a report entitled Maintenance: A Study of the Operation of Namibia's Maintenance Courts, including a proposal for a draft Maintenance Act. A Maintenance Manual for magistrates and maintenance officers who administer maintenance cases was also published in 1995, as well as educational material on maintenance.
During 1996, the Legal Assistance Centre met to discuss the recommendations with members of a subcommittee appointed by the Law Reform & Development Commission for this purpose. Following on the recommendations of this subcommittee, the Law Reform and Development Commission published a report on maintenance in 1997.
During 1998-99, GR&AP embarked on a Child Maintenance Campaign with several objectives:
The first goal was to speed up the passage of the new Maintenance Act. Campaign activities in this area included direct lobbying of key officials, circulation of a petition demanding speedy passage of the Act and provision of ongoing research and drafting assistance to the Ministry of Justice on specific issues.
The second goal was to raise public awareness of the importance of financial and emotional support from parents. Activities here included radio and tv programmes, posters, performance groups, community meetings and workshops across Namibia.
The third goal was to improve the service provided to persons who approach the maintenance courts. This objective was addressed by compiling illustrative case studies, meetings with maintenance officers , lobbying the Ministry of Justice to provide specialised training for maintenance officers and forwarding specific complaints to the chief of the Magistrates' Court for follow-up.
It appears that this campaign helped to keep the bill moving forward on the political agenda. There was an increase in the number of maintenance complaints being brought to some legal advice offices during the campaign period, increased discussion of the topic on call-in radio shows on the various language services and a positive response from community-based organisations who work with GR&AP.
One of the culminating activities of the campaign was the preparation of six 'commercial-length' television spots aimed at fathers. These 'shorts' were launched at the National Art Gallery in March 1999 and were well-received, stimulating lots of discussion and debate. NBC aired them frequently. A video containing all six spots was distributed to NGOs and others for use in workshops. In October 1999, these television spots won a prestigious Gecko advertising award, surpassing 11 other entries.
Lobbying activities continued after the official end of the campaign. The Maintenance Bill was introduced into Parliament in February 2002. GR&AP made written and oral submissions on the Bill to the Parliamentary Committee which studied it. When the Committee Report was tabled, GR&AP responded with written comments which were distributed to all Parliamentarians.
The bill was passed in 2003, and finally came into force in November of that year.
Read an article from our archive (1998): Put your children first; (2002) The New Maintenance Act - Making our Maintenance Courts more effective; (2006) Problems with maintenance
As in the case of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, GR&AP advised the Ministry of Justice on regulations and forms to accompany the Act, once again with emphasis on making the forms and the procedures as accessible and user-friendly as possible.
GR&AP has drafted educational material on the new law in the form of a Guide to the Maintenance Act and a shorter Summary of the Maintenance Act in simple language. Both of these publications, include a step-by-step guide to seeking a maintenance order. The Guide also reproduces the key forms needed to apply for the maintenance order and explains how to complete them. Both these publications are available in English, Afrikaans, Khoekhoegowab, Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, and Rukwangali.
Click here for a short summary of the provisions of the Maintenance Act.