Friday, 29 July 2016, was a memorable day for the UN System and 700 female learners at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Katutura, Windhoek. After one month and 12 outreaches, the ‘Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation’ programme surpassed its target of educating 5000 girls on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Exactly one month before on 29 June 2016, Ms. Kiki Gbeho, the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) to Namibia launched ‘Prosperous Paths’ at Jakob Marengo Tutorial College. Not only did Ms. Gbeho share her personal story of hard work and success to over 600 female learners, she also spread the message of self-empowerment and self-determination to the enthusiastic crowd. Since then, the UN System, namely UNFPA Namibia’s Ms. Dennia Gayle and UNIC Windhoek’s Ms. Anthea Basson, have spoken to girls across the capital city about the importance of striving to achieve Goal #5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
With each ‘Prosperous Paths’, the number of empowered young girls increased and the power of such a programme to foster change and promote women’s agency became ever more evident throughout the course of July.
In celebration of this great success, the UN System in Namibia hosted a special ceremony at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School. Starting off the day, Namibian saxophonist Suzy Eises, guitarist and singer Black Velvet and singer Slickartie opened the event with a musical repertoire of latest chart toping songs, fusing jazz into the performance. The young female crowd enthusiastically sang along, applauding and cheering for an encore.
The excitement rose even further as Suzy took the audience on a journey through her personal experience as well as the challenges she faced as a female musician in Namibia. Emphasizing the importance hard work, Suzy motivated the crowd and encouraged the girls to dream big, stand up for one another and make their voices heard.
Suzy’s inspiring story and testimony was a perfect transition to the keynote address by the UNRC Ms. Kiki Gbeho, who engaged the audience in an open dialogue on gender issues in Namibia, explained the UN’s concrete action plans in combating gender injustice as well as listened to suggestions from the girls of how to tackle these inequalities in order to bring about change.
One core topic that was addressed was the high drop-out rate of female learners and it’s relation to teenage pregnancy and juvenile labor. The audience was alarmed as the UNRC explained that approximately 10,000 students discontinue school every year and confronted them with other statistics regarding female learners dropping-out of school. According to the statistics compiled by the Education Management Information System (EMIS), the major cause of the high dropout rates is pregnancy, which caused 2,896 girls (and involved boys) leaving school in 2011 and 2012.
Astonished by this fact, the girls openly shared their opinions on how to jointly tackle this predicament, and most importantly, the students emphasized the importance of encouraging fellow female students to continue with academics even if they fall pregnant both, for their own good and that of their child.
Among other solutions shared, one girl passionately encouraged the crowd to, “stand side by side and form a female alliance in the school”. She said, “Instead of bringing each other down. Girls should learn to value and respect one another, because together we are strong!”
Ms. Gbeho strongly supported this proposition and urged the audience to start their own girls club at the school, a place where every female learner is warmly welcomed, helped and inspired by a great and unconditional appreciation.
At the end of the ‘Prosperous Paths’ outreach, Suzy, Slickartie and Black Velvet played a few more songs before a photo was taken to celebrate the achievement of educating and empowering 5,000 learners.
Moved by the learners’ passion to bring about change, the UN System in Namibia will continue its service to the girl child in Namibia by launching a follow-up campaign as part of the Prosperous Paths outreach this November. This campaign provides female youth with the opportunity to work with the UN staff in reaching out to other young learners and jointly empowering them to be confident, independent and courageous.
The UN System is optimistic that with the help of the bright and passionate girls, gender equality can and will be achieved for every Namibian woman and that all women will be able to bring about positive change along their Prosperous Paths.