In order to promote women’s empowerment and to generate awareness of the importance of gender equality, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments each Wednesday. For this week’s #WednesdayCelebrateWomen #WCW, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Bridget Jenkins, a history teacher and Deputy Principal at St. Paul’s College in Windhoek, Namibia.
Before finding herself at St. Paul’s, Bridget was born and raised in a rural village along the coast of South Wales. At the age of 16, she had the opportunity to attend an international college that aims to develop international understanding, the United World College of the Atlantic, where she met people from all around the world. This experience had a large impact on Bridget, who continued on with her education at University in York.
Through her University’s Centre of Southern African Studies, she became interested in the history of southern Africa and met many Namibians who were campaigning for Independence at the time. Her experiences motivated her to continue studying, finishing with a Masters of Arts in African History and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). She has been teaching and enjoying a career in education ever since.
Bridget stresses the importance of children receiving a quality education that motivates them to question the world. She says, “Education needs to teach people how to ask why, as well as how to critically assess and engage with what they are taught and told.”
This type of quality education is something that Bridget says should start from an early age. “I feel the most important stage of any education is the very start. What happens in pre-primary, lays the foundation for primary education, and primary education [lays the foundation] for secondary education. An ideal world would give young children nourishment for the mind, imagination and body as a right,” she explains.
In terms of promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, Bridget emphasizes that education is a very important tool. Bridget says, “Education improves life chances and earning power. Probably the most important aspect of education is the larger number of choices it provides women.”
Describing a situation through which she was told that she would not be chosen for a position because two women could not work together, she says that, “Misogyny and sexism are rife.”
In order to combat this, Bridget works to give girls equal opportunities, especially in the classroom. “I want to give girls an equal opportunity to talk and contribute in classroom discussion, addressing gender balance in the classroom. Girls should experience equal airtime as [boys].”
A dedicated educator, Bridget works as a full time history teacher and as part of the administration at St. Paul’s college. Although she has a busy schedule, she has been dedicated to ensuring that there are extra-curricular opportunities at the school, including UNIC Windhoek’s Model United Nations Namibia (MUNNAM) programme.
“When UNIC Windhoek started the MUN programme, I immediately decided St. Paul’s would join. It provides a wonderful opportunity for students at high school level to engage with global issues and actively learn how international diplomacy and discussion work,” Bridget explains.
Her advice to young girls is to, “Work hard and don’t be deterred by setbacks. There is usually more than one route to achieve a goal.”
She also encourages girls to not be scared to ask for help, especially when working to achieve these goals. “Don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it – other women, your community, the Internet – sources are endless!” she says.
Finally, you will most likely find Bridget reading, as she lives by her life motto of always having something to read.