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Protecting women’s and girls’ rights

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Transforming our culture

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Preventing harmful cultural practices

Zambezi for Women’s Rights Programme


This programme focuses on developing a feminist critical analysis to challenge and transform harmful cultural practices in Zambezi Region, north-eastern Namibia, that subject girls and women to all forms of violence as well as high risk of HIV infection. Many of these practices involve making girls’ and women’s bodies sexually pleasurable and available to men, for example through elongation of the labia minora starting long before puberty; preparation for sex during sikenge, the initiation rite preparing girls for ‘good womanhood’, dry sex and scarification, all of which expose girls and women to pain, humiliation, violence as well as HIV and Aids. Other harmful practices include lobola (bride price), polygamy, widow inheritance and widow cleansing.

Figures from the Ministry of Health and Social Services show that HIV prevalence among women aged between 25 and 49 tested in Katima Mulilo, Zambezi Region, ranged between 40% and 50% over the past years. This is almost double the national average. Among the girls and young women aged 15 to 24, the HIV prevalence rate ranged between 20% and 24%, more than double the national average.

Zambezi Workshops and Advocacy Meetings - 2022


The objective of this programme is to strengthen feminist transformative leadership among women and girls for the prevention/transformation of harmful cultural practices in Zambezi Region; to increase awareness among national and regional state agencies and service providers, as well as civil society, on the impact of harmful cultural practices; and to hold duty bearers to account for the protection of the dignity and rights of girls and women in the region.

In 2023 we are training women community leaders from ten villages across Zambezi Region to conduct local meetings in their communities. We are also training traditional leaders from all four main Traditional Authorities on their role in the prevention of harmful cultural practices and the protection of women’s and children’s rights in their communities, and continuing to train police officers. In partnership with the Ministry of Education we are supporting Girls Clubs in secondary schools, and also training Life Skills teachers across the region.

Zambezi Girls Project - 2023


Our Donors

The Women's Leadership Centre is grateful to the following donors, who have provided financial and other support for our work.