Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung hosts panel discussion to strengthen the discourse on the importance of democratic participation
The Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Namibia and fesmedia Africa last week jointly hosted a panel discussion and partners engagement under the theme ‘Strengthening Democracy and Social Justice in Namibia’ that focused on strengthening the discourse on the importance of democratic participation and social justice.
Speaking in the panel discussion were: the Director of the Namibia Media Trust (NMT), Ms. Zoe Titus; the Director of FES Namibia and fesmedia Africa, Freya Gruenhagen; the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the Office of the President, Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube; an academic at the University of Namibia, Dr. Basilius Kasera; and a youth activist, Mr. Gregory Eiaseb.
The panel discussion and partner engagement also created a platform for networking and exchange among FES Namibia’s and fesmedia Africa’s partners and stakeholders to identify common areas of interest.
During her welcoming remarks at the discussion, the Director of FES Namibia and fesmedia Africa, Freya Gruenhagen, pointed out that despite its abundant natural resources, Namibia is still rife with poverty and hunger.
According to Gruenhagen, this is due to the existing policies and implementation that have not addressed the issue of social inequality.
“Even further discoveries and extractions of its natural wealth will unlikely alleviate the human suffering at hand,” she added.
The Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the Office of the President, Hon. Alexia Manombe-Ncube, countered this argument by highlighting Namibia’s well-established social protection system as one of the most comprehensive social protection systems in Africa.
She further commended the government’s commitment to the advancement and rights of persons with disabilities.
Meanwhile, an academic at the University of Namibia, Dr. Basilius Kasera, emphasized that because social inequality in Namibia, which he indicated is currently at its highest and with the challenges around social inequality not effectively addressed, it can lead to chaos.
Kasera further noted with concern the police brutality and heavy-handedness deployed by the Namibian police on peaceful protestors.
In agreement was youth activist Gregory Eiaseb who lamented that the youth are still not at liberty after 33 years of independence, even after all the promises made by the government to deal with high unemployment, school dropouts, and employment creation, according to a joint statement issued by FES Namibia and fesmedia Africa on Monday.
Moreover, Eiaseb furthered his argument that according to what he had observed, despite all government programmes and initiatives, the situation remains dire for the majority of Namibian youth.
Besides, Mr. Ndishishi Hamufungu, who moderated the panel discussion, also argued that according to what he had observed on the ground and despite all government programmes and initiatives, the situation remains dire for the youth.
The Director of the Namibia Media Trust (NMT), Ms. Zoe Titus, stressed that Access to Information is a guaranteed right that, once fully implemented, could contribute to the fight against poverty, yet not put an end to it. “Even though Namibia has recently passed the Access to Information (ATI) bill, although not perfect in nature, still a good law; there will always be inequalities,” she said.
Titus further encouraged civil society organisations and the fourth estate to fully utilize this law to hold the government accountable and promote transparency about the availability of public goods, their statement continued.
According to them, the audience actively participated in the discussions and gave telling contributions to the topic. “Some suggestions were about implementing the Basic Income Grant (BIG) in Namibia for poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods.”
To date, the BIG outreach campaigns have brought tangible results in some rural communities, helped lift poor households out of generational poverty, and assisted some families by sending their children to school, they added.
“Another view shared was that young people should take it upon themselves to hold their elected leaders accountable for the high youth unemployment crisis, as they will need help to do it on their behalf. They have the power within themselves to demand better from their leaders, it was argued”, they concluded.