Each Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments. In light of the “International Day for Biological Diversity” which was commemorated on 22 May and raises awareness on the impact human development has had on wildlife, #WCW commemorates a journalist who has worked closely with the Rhino population in Namibia.
This Wednesday, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Francoise Steynberg, a veteran journalist with a heart for nature. Read the interview UNIC Windhoek had with Francoise below, and learn more about her exciting career journey!
1.) Could you tell us about your career?
I have been a newspaper journalist for 22 years. I started my newspaper career at Rustenburg Herald in South Africa and was promoted after a month to editor of a regional paper, Brits Post. It was very challenging, because I was very young. After two years, I went backpacking in Europe, where after I moved back to Namibia and joined the daily Afrikaans newspaper Republikein.
I moved to Stellenbosch in South Africa where I worked as a communications officer for Capitec Bank, the fastest growing bank in South Africa, running two in-house newsletters. I got fed up with corporate life and decided to travel and work at the same time. I started working as an English teacher in Taiwan and travelled extensively in Asia for six years. I still wrote free-lance for travel magazines in Taiwan and was a correspondent for a radio station in South Africa. In 2009 I finally returned to Namibia and joined Republikein again, where I am now a chief reporter.
2.) Why did you choose to go into media / choose to work as an environmental journalist?
I love languages, reading and writing. I am addicted to following the news and I love the smell of freshly printed newspapers and books. I was always an all-rounder in my journalistic career and I can do any beat (except financial reporting). As a child I was lucky to grow up on a farm in Namibia and I love animals and nature. This played an important role in how I ended up being an environmental journalist.
3.) Could you please tell us about the rhino poaching situation in Namibia and your experience with it?
The rhino poaching situation in Namibia has escalated over the past two years. Everybody expected that it will spill over from South Africa.
On 1 September 2014 I saw my first ever free roaming rhino in the Kunene region and the next day I saw my first ever rhino carcass. On a personal note, those two contrasting images made a huge impact on me. I helped organise two rhino poaching protests in Windhoek and I cover all the court cases of alleged rhino poachers and horn smugglers, which is not easy.
4.) Why are rhinos important to Namibia? What measures have been put in place to protect this species?
Wildlife is one of Namibia’s biggest tourist attractions. Rhinos are important as we have the most free-roaming black rhinos in the world. Tourists come from all over the world to see black rhinos in their natural habitat.
I don’t think enough measures have been put into place to protect rhinos. If the public sector, NGOs and the media are not helping the government by raising funds, awareness, organising protests and setting up anti-poaching units, the rhino population numbers would’ve been much lower. The police and ministry of environment and tourism launched joint anti-poaching operations in high risk poaching areas and at the moment, poaching is relatively under control. Touch wood.
5.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career?
I came across many challenges, like not earning the same as my male counterparts. Though, I feel it is important that male and female journalists should do the same work and go to the same (dangerous) places.
4.) What are your thoughts on women’s empowerment, and why it is important?Every woman should empower herself to be completely financially independent. The first step of empowerment is a good education.
7.) What is your advice to girls following their dreams? What is your motto in life?Get a good education. Study and work hard so that you can get a good job and be (financially) independent. Independence means freedom. Never stop learning, whether it is a new language or skill. Travel to broaden your horizons. Choose a job that you love.
Have fun, be humble, grab new adventures with both hands.