Sociology of the Family in Namibia

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WRITTEN BY

Inga Lam
May 1, 2015


TOPIC
Culture, Education, Student Life

Sociology of the Family in Namibia

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A primary goal of the Sociology of the Family course was for us to understand the origins and definitions of family and marriage, and to recognize the similarities and differences in mate selection, family formation, and gender identities across cultures. By visiting various community centers and meeting with several prominent figures that are making an impact in families the society, we were able to establish a general picture of what families are like in Namibia, how societal issues have played a part in shaping family and marriage, and recognize the tension between culture, political improvement, and economic oppression in influencing women’s roles.

Through visiting the Mondesa community and meeting with a representative from the Namibian Ministry of Gender to learn about what is currently being done to mediate the problems of gender inequality, as well as interacting with local students, we were able to gain some insight as to what traditional Namibian family structure is like. It is also through this experience that we can come to better understand how to examine the socio-historical development of marriage and family as institutions, including the changing roles of women, men, and children – for example, how culture acts as a dominant role in defining traditional rolesIMG_5733 for husband and wife in a marriage, and how transnational employment has reshaped the construction of parenthood, creating a generation that is becoming increasingly independent.

What struck me most on this field lab were the remarks from Ms. Pennina Haimbodi, a community activist/counselor, on globalization’s effects on the Namibian community, specifically with regards to media. In her words, global media, with its power to reach virtually any part of the world, is not a bad thing. Whether it is good or bad depends entirely on how we receive it. There is a direct contrast between lack of information in local communities, and overload of information in media, but media is only destroying the community because of the lack of proper education. Many Namibians have come to perceive the accumulation of materialistic resources as the primary definition of wealth and power as their country starts adopting a new world system. Their relative deprivation in the face of comparison with global others in families can have devastating effects on families. Unless people learn how to differentiate between and to filter the good and the bad, media will continue to make families vulnerable, and so education is essential.

Pennina’s story herself is also an inspiring one, where we see how despite her struggles growing up as an outcast within her own community, she found the strength in herself to be the helping force in a community that desperately needed a pillar of support. As spoken in her words, “if I am in this situation and no one’s reaching out, how many others are in this situation too?” These words really struck me, and it embarrasses me to recognize that despite being in a more privileged position, I am making much less of an impact on society than Pennina. I hope to contribute in similar ways in the future, and I continue to look up to her as an inspiration.

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