Traditional women confess to oppressing men

24 Oct 2013 11:50am
By Tjikunda Kulunga
OPUWO, 24 OCT (NAMPA) - Traditional leaders in the Kunene Region confessed last week that the OvaHimba, OvaHerero and OvaZimba cultures oppress men and advance women when it comes to economic empowerment.
Female traditional leaders made this revelation during a one-day training workshop on gender equality and related issues held for traditional leaders by the Kaoko Epupa Development Foundation at Opuwo on Thursday.
The Kaoko Epupa Development Foundation is a community-based organisation involved in community development programmes and conservancies in the Kunene Region.
Chief Jakise Herunga of the Oviana Traditional Authority, an unrecognised authority, said in terms of gender equality, women are more advanced as they save their wealth, while men have to spend theirs to sustain their family’s needs as per their traditional customs.
“Traditional communities of the OvaHerero, OvaHimba and OvaZimba survive from farming with livestock and when they need any other products, they have to sell some of their livestock to get money and buy whatever they need, or exchange the livestock for that commodity,” explained Herunga.
The livestock set for sale, be it goats, sheep or cattle, always have to come from the husband who is the head of the family, even if he has few livestock.
According to Traditional Councillor Maria Kapuenene of the Vita Royal House, all traditional customs which are attached to rituals and initiations are supposed to be sustained by the head of the family, who in many cases is the husband.
“When a woman gives birth to a child and the child has to be named at the holy fire, it is required by tradition that the father has to give a sheep, goat or cow to be slaughtered for the naming of the child,” noted Kapuenene.
She added that another head of livestock has to be slaughtered when a boy-child gets circumcised, or a girl-child “becomes a woman”.
The custom of circumcision is called ‘Okusukara’ in OtjiHerero and ‘Okupita Etanda’ in OludHimba, while ‘becoming a woman’ is called ‘Okusaneka Otjikaiva’ in OtjiHerero and ‘Okuhita Ethuko’ in OludHimba.
The preferred animal to be slaughtered is a big ox – sometimes even more than one ox if the child is deemed special by the father.
Vejamena Mukuma, a traditional councillor of the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority, said men are really at a disadvantage when it comes to economic empowerment.
Mukuma said when she as a married woman loses one of her close relatives like a sister, brother or a parent, it is expected that her husband should take her to her family’s village for the mourning process and burial.
He then has to bring along a sheep or cow - a gesture referred to as “Okukunda Omutambo poo Okujondjoza”.
However, when the husband loses one of his family members, nothing is expected from his wife’s side, besides her attending the funeral, and only if she is taken along by her husband.
A man also has to sacrifice his livestock as payment for his own offspring to the wife’s family to claim the children as his own.
This process of paying for offspring is called ‘Ongombe jorutombe’ in OtjiHerero, and ‘Okuyowola’ in OludHimba.
In case the husband only has female livestock in his kraal, he has to exchange these for male livestock from his wife’s livestock, and that is how women advance and become richer.
Meanwhile, the training on gender equality and related issues was attended by 30 participants, including Chief Uziruapi Tjavara of the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority, Chief of the OvaZimba Traditional Authority Jonas Tjikulya, and Chief of the Oukongo village, Uomiti Ruhozu.