Namibian Correctional Service takes the lead

Women's network formed

11 November 2019 | International

Namibia, through the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS), has become the first Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) country to launch a country-specific Corrections/Prisons Women's Network as the region acts to better appreciate the role of women officers in ensuring peace and stability.

The SADC Secretariat hosted the symbolic launch of the Corrections/ Prisons Women's Network in Gaborone, Botswana on 15 May 2019. After that, member states were expected to launch their country-specific chapters. The prison sector was recently elevated as a subcommittee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation of SADC.

The establishment of the Corrections/ Prisons Women's Network thus acknowledges the key roles that women correctional service officers play in making the region safer and free from drugs and crime. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supported the establishment and launch of the network's chapter in Namibia.

Signe Rotberga, UNODC regional coordinator, explained the significance of the network.

“Broadly and at a regional level, it seeks to, inter alia: coordinate and conduct research on corrections/prisons female officers' issues; identify regional training needs; assess the readiness of women prison/correctional officers to participate in peace keeping missions; and raise awareness and understanding of the work of the network,” she said.

The commissioner-general of NCS, Raphael Hamunyela, officially launched the network at Otjiwarongo recently. “This is yet another milestone in the history of NCS. Namibia prioritises peace and security as prerequisites for regional integration, development and prosperity,” Hamunyela said. He said NCS's mandate was to provide safe, secure and humane custody of offenders, rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the community as law-abiding citizens.

“This is a challenging task that demands a balanced and skilled manpower as well as supportive stakeholders to achieve desired results,” he said

The NCS has adopted an ambitious vision of becoming Africa's leader in the provision of correctional services. Hamunyela said if NCS was to realise its vision, female officers should spearhead the change of the “current status quo of relying on male officers in all types of administration”.

He added: “We need to move from the mentality that it is only male officers that can provide leadership.”

The executive director in the ministry of gender equality and child welfare, Wilhencia Uiras, was a special guest at the launch.

She hoped that UN Resolution 1325 which was adopted 19 years ago, would continue to inspire women and highlight the unique issues that affect them whether in peace time or during armed conflict.

She said the active participation of women in peacekeeping, was important.

“There is no way we can have sustainable development if we leave out 50 percent of the population. In Namibia, as women we constitute 51 percent of the population.”

Noting that UN Resolution 1325 has four key pillars: participation, prevention, protection and gender mainstreaming.

Uiras said Namibia was grappling with high levels of GBV and pledged her ministry's support to the new network in terms of capacity building and understanding diverse issues.

“As we run with this agenda, let's not leave our boys behind. I am seriously concerned about our boys because I think sometimes when we become too overpowered as women, we forget the needs of our boys. As mothers, we have that obligation to ensure that we pull the boys along with the girls.”

-Moses Magadza is the communications officer for the Pretoria-based UNODC Regional Office for Southern Africa.