International Women’s Day (IWD), commemorated globally on 8 March, is a, “time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities” (UN International Observances).
In light of IWD, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek hosted an awareness-raising event at Olupale Square on the main campus of the University of Namibia (UNAM) in an effort to engage with tertiary students on gender equality, women’s empowerment and Goal 5 ‘Gender Equality’ of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UNAM Student Representative Council (SRC) Representative for Community Development Mr. Laeka Ileka opened the event by highlighting that women play an important role in society and are a great source of light in all aspects of society. He continued to explain that the reason IWD exists is to show women across the globe that their efforts and the challenges they face have not been forgotten.
Following the introduction, students were invited to share their thoughts and opinions on women’s empowerment and gender equality through an open mic session.
The passionate students had a lot to say. “They say it’s a man’s world, but it’s time for us women to take a stand and be heard. It’s our century,” one student exclaimed, calling on her peers to be bold for change, the theme of IWD.
Concluding the open mic, local spoken word poet Ashwyn Mberi presented an original piece on gender equality. “I remember, and we remember, being told that home is where the heart is, and the heart is a home and that a woman’s heart is always warm,” he poetically said to the crowd.
Ashynm continued, “Love our women. We have to fight for women, instead of fighting women. We have to rise for women. I will give my life for women, there is life in women. I see the sun in women, and there are stars in women.”
Throughout the open mic, an art competition took place. Students were tasked with creating an art piece that depicts the themes of the day, including #BeBoldForChange, #TheBeautyInHer and #Planet5050. Five pieces were created, and each portrayed a dynamic message.
The winning piece, created by Paskalius Haindere, Renate Shikongo, Sharon Van der Smit and Esther Shiyagaya, included a colourful depiction of a woman as a tree with long branches. The artists explained that the piece symbolized women being able to give life to the world, but when they are not nurtured, they can die, creating a dysfunctional world.
Another artful performance was a dance by the Prototypes, a UNAM dance crew, who danced to a mix of empowering songs song by prominent female performers.
The students also penned their thoughts on how they can #BeBoldForChange and made pledges to bring about change. Some of the comments included: ‘Women inspire to aspire’, ‘Women give and never take’ and ‘Women are society’s architects’.
The event was in line with Goal 5 ‘Gender Equality’ of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This Goal aims at empowering women and girls to reach their full potential, which requires eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against them, including harmful practices.
Without the support of people in all sectors, Goal 5 and the other SDGs will not be achieved. The audience’s lively participation was a clear representation that the youth and university students also play a pertinent role in transforming the world by 2030.