Thursday, 1 September 2011

Baby steps in Namibian advocacy


My desk has been snowed under with brochures and manuals, and my computer desktop with pdfs about the work of the Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek. I'm finding it only starts to make any sense and take concrete form when I arrange to talk with my new colleagues about what they have done.

So, after over a week of fairly solitary reading to try and catch up with the various concurrent programmes run out of my AIDS Law Unit, I emerged today with my first solid offer of work. It will be with a colleague who has been leading on an UN/International Labour Organisation-sponsored project to reduce child labour in the selected districts of the rural north.

Child labour is very common as farming is the dominant means of subsistence, and is naturally very labour-intensive. Since primary education is not free in Namibia, this makes school retention harder. Children from the poorest families are supposed to be able to have their fees paid for by the state, in a process that is rather bureaucratic. In short, they need full documentation to prove they are Namibian citizens.  But most of these children don't have birth certificates, as to obtain a birth certificate requires the presence of two parents before a registrar.  In Namibia, as elsewhere in the world, many fathers just don't stick around that long.  My work will focus on developing an advocacy strategy to make it easier for children without full documentation to be enrolled in schools.  The target is the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration - specifically the Minister herself, Rosalia Nghidinwa. What I heard today is how difficult it is to reach ministerial level, even as the country's top public interest law firm. More normally one can reach only so far as the divisional director or maybe, at best, the Permanent Secretary to the Minister.  So I will need to set the ball rolling by researching this issue that has arisen through the work of the ILO in the North, and also by exploring some potential ways of securing a meeting at an effective level.
The ILO project centres on the Oshikoto region, in the North (labelled as the Etosha Pan in this map, Tsumeb being the regional capital)

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