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Traditional Leaders Commit To Preventing Harmful Cultural Practices In Namibia

Traditional leaders in Namibia committed to working with their communities to ensure that harmful cultural practices are prevented.


KATIMA MULILO, NAMIBIA (SAfAIDS) – In a show of their commitment to promote women’s rights and protect against new HIV infections, traditional leaders in Namibia committed to working with their communities to ensure that harmful cultural practices are prevented. Their commitment came as the backdrop of a national dialogue, which witnessed a number of young girls and women sharing their testimonies on the prevalence and impact of harmful cultural practices.


The traditional leaders cited coerced initiation into womanhood – sikenge, preparation for sex and sexual readiness testing – kutamunwa, cutting and scaring young women’s bodies – kupaza; drying out the vagina for dry sex – kuomisa busali and coerced stretching of the labia minora – malebe, as some of the harmful cultural practices which need to be prevented, as they infringe on women’s rights. The traditional leaders also appealed to Namibians to stop the practice of exorbitant lobola charges, as they felt these were also exposing women to abuse since husbands view them as commodities that they have bought.


Addressing the delegates, the Namibian Regional Governor for the Zambezi Region, Honourable Lawrence Sampofu, implored Namibians, especially men, to learn to respect girls and young women by ensuring that they are accorded the same treatment as boys and men. “Through violence, we are teaching our girls and young women to live in abusive relationships. This exposes them to HIV infection. Is this what we want for our girls and young women?”, asked Honourable Mpofu.


The Namibian British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Jo Lomas, encouraged women in the Zambezi region to claim their space and let their voices be heard. In the same vein, the UNICEF Country Representative, Micaela de Sousa, stressed that the prevalence of harmful cultural practices is a reality in Namibia and the commitment by the traditional leaders to prevent their continuance is a step in the right direction.

SAfAIDS was one of the regional organisations that were invited to share their own experiences in addressing harmful cultural practices.


The SAfAIDS Changing the Rivers’ Flow programme experiences were shared and were well received by the delegates, who welcomed the idea of working with traditional leaders as the custodians of culture to modify harmful cultural practices.

The conference delegates unanimously agreed that culture is important, as it reflects a people’s identity. However, they noted that harmful cultural practices are not serving good to anyone, hence the call to prevent their continued practice.