The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek armours on to strengthen and amplify young girl’s voices by empowering Namibian women and girls to be advocates of their own rights through the ‘Prosperous Paths’ outreach programme. On the cold winter morning of 25th July 2016, the UNIC Windhoek team set off to the Windhoek Afrikaans Privaatskool (WAP), to share its lesson plan on gender equality and women’s empowerment (Goal #5 of the SDGs) with 200 enthusiastic female learners.
The girls and UNIC Windhoek team were welcomed by a word of wisdom and prayer from the management of the school. With knowledge of the increase of drug abuse among youngsters, the educator informed the girls that they are special and shared with them the life story of a very well-known Afrikaans artist, Karin Zoid’s, and described her battle with drug, self-defeat and survival.
The administrator mentioned that although we all share a common core belief of the negative impact of drugs on people’s lives, she said that it is wise to avoid becoming involved in drugs as it only leads to misery and loss of agency. The inspirational message ended with a mellow song of the aforementioned artist ‘Ek lewe’.
Ms. Anthea Basson, the National Information Officer to Namibia, used the introductory session on substance abuse to open the dialogue with girls on the challenges girls and young women face in Namibia.
“With the support of caring individuals such teachers, educational opportunities and recognition that each person’s voice counts, girls and young women have more opportunity than ever to be problem solvers and contribute to building a more safe and sustainable world for everybody,” Ms. Basson said.
The girls also commented on social economic concerns, such as gender inequality, rape, sexual harassment, the low status of women, etc. which hamper women’s potential of living a life full of substance.
Ms. Basson also emphasized the four key areas (education, health, environment and poverty) and the girls’ relation to these areas. She also mentioned the affirmations, changes and differences they can make in their lives in order to be successful and to ensure the achievement of women’s empowerment.
“You deserve to be brought up in totality, so know your rights and never underestimate yourself,” Ms. Basson said.
The in-depth discussion allowed the girls to make suggestions, comments, raise problems and share ideas. Most importantly, it allowed the learners to provide possible solutions to the problems.
Solutions that were highlighted included teaching women the importance of having self-respect; encouraging women to take an initiative to make money independently so that they are not forced to resort to non-traditional means of work and so that they do not feel forced to stay in abusive relationships; and the importance of women reaching out to someone and seeking help after being molested or physically abused, as support systems can help women escape and heal from situations of injustice.
Ms. Basson added, “Nobody owns the right to violate you as a person, so use your voice and speak out against the injustice.”
Up to date, more than 4000 girls have participated in the ‘Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation’ campaign which encourages the leadership of girls, increased female participation in all aspects of society and the development of women’s status benefits in the Namibia society.