Each Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments. Through her work for the Hanns Seidel Foundation Namibia she is instrumental in coordinating environmental awareness and climate change projects in Namibia. This week we celebrate, Lesley-Anne Van Wyk.
Check out Lesley-Anne’s interview with UNIC Windhoek! Read along as she talks about climate change and the tips she gives on combating climate change. See what she reckons on gender equality.
1.) Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career?
My name is Lesley-Anne van Wyk and I was born and raised in Windhoek. I hold a Bachelors degree in Languages and Journalism from the University of Pretoria and a Masters degree in Globalisation and Development Studies from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. I have over 9 years of work experience in diverse roles and dynamic organisations. The last 5 years of my career have been focused in the spheres of environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation, food security and development communications. Currently, I coordinate an environmental awareness and climate change project at the Namibian office of an international foundation.
2.) What is climate change? How is climate change impacting Namibia?
Climate change, in simple terms, can be defined as changes in the average long-term weather patterns of a region for an extended period of time, typically decades or longer. Examples include shifts in wind patterns, the average temperature, or the amount of precipitation. These changes can affect one region, many regions or the whole planet. The Earth’s climate has never been completely static and in the past the planet’s climate has changed due to natural causes (e.g. volcanic eruptions, changes in the sun’s intensity). These effects are spread out around the globe mainly by ocean currents as well as wind and weather patterns to affect the climates of different regions. Human activities like the burning of fossil fuels or industrial production increase the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This traps more heat in our atmosphere, which drives global warming and climate change.
Namibia is particularly vulnerable because it already has a dry and highly variable climate. The vast majority of the population depends on natural resources for their livelihoods. The population growth of Namibia is expected to put additional pressure on (especially) land and water resources. Poverty, lack of income and lack of employment opportunities increase the vulnerability of households to cope with the impacts of climate change e.g. the shocks of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.
3.) The landmark Paris Agreement, which aims at keeping global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, recently came into force. What are some things people can do to combat climate change?
Climate change is a multi-faceted problem and therefore we must continue to tackle it with multi-faceted solutions.
When it comes to mitigating the impacts of climate change, we can each take various actions in our daily lives. These include:
- Saving energy at our homes, workplaces and schools: this means less energy needs to be generated and less greenhouse gas emissions are made in the production of that energy;
- Reduce food waste: global food losses and waste amount to one third of all food produced. So when we reduce and manage food waste we avoid contributing to greenhouse gasses emitted in the production and supply chain.
When it comes to adapting to the impacts of climate change, we can each take various actions in our daily lives which include:
- Saving water at our homes, workplaces and schools: Namibia is a water scarce country even without the current and projected impacts of climate change. Being water-savvy results in efficient use of a scarce resource and using innovative ways to store, use and re-use it.
- Advocate for responsible use of our natural resources: become an informed and active citizen, consumer and member of your community to mobilise, network and share knowledge on how others can take action to address climate change.
4.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career?
The main challenge I have faced in previous organisations I have worked for was not being taken seriously as a young woman and having to work extra hard to have my ideas considered. I think this is however a broader challenge for young people when entering the workforce and we all have to ‘pay our dues’ to a certain extent by taking every opportunity to gain hard-earned professional experience. So even though this was a challenge, over time it has become an opportunity to strengthen my professional resolve and skill-set.
5.) What are your thoughts on gender equality, and why it is important?
I think gender equality is important because the different genders have different strengths to offer in any environment and when we devalue each other we are missing important opportunities to excel in our personal and national development. This works both ways, for women to also value the contribution of men (especially in the workplace) because sadly there is also ‘reverse discrimination’. Progressing past discrimination will not happen until us as individuals and society embrace diversity as the positive thing that it is. So for me, gender equality is one element of a broader discussion we need to keep having to heal the divides we still encounter on a daily basis in our country.
6.) What is your advice to girls following their dreams?
Every dream about your future is authentic. You have those dreams for a reason and as you pursue them, you make opportunities for others to do the same. My advice for young Namibian women is to pursue a legacy, not only a career, and to become the type of leader who serves her society and lifts up other leaders of integrity. It is not enough to have nice degrees and a comfortable job unless we also ensure that we fulfill our responsibility to live a purposeful life and share our knowledge and skills with others. It takes character and discipline to do this and therefore our real challenge is to become excellent and dynamic in everything we do so that we can keep offering something of value to others to learn from.
7.) What is your motto in life?
With all you are getting, get understanding. For understanding releases you to embrace truth. And that truth will equip you to be released into a joyful, victorious living.