Check out Naita’s interview with UNIC Windhoek! Read along as she describes how she became interested in politics, shares her thoughts on women’s empowerment and encourages young girls to question the world around them.
1.) Could you tell us a little bit about you and your career?
My name is Naita Hishoono, and I was born during Namibia’s Struggle for Independence in Angola. My parents had to flee to Angola since they were politically active in SWAPO. During the 70s many Namibians fled the country since SWAPO was banned by the Apartheid Authorities. My name means born during the war. The name was given to me by PLAN-General Dimo Amambo. Two years after I was born the Cassinga Massacre was orchestrated. Many Namibians died that day and the surviving children were taken to countries that supported Namibia during the Liberation Struggle. I was flown to East Germany with 79 children, a few parents and teachers.
From 1979 -1990 East Germany became my second home. I was raised highly political realizing the friction between NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Warsaw Pact states [and living through] Namibia’s struggle for Independence, Perestroika, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent guidance to Namibia’s Independence under Resolution 435. Growing up politically conscious influenced me to want to make a difference in people’s lives. Today I am a political educator explaining to Namibian’s the political structures, the Constitution and branches and levels of sub-national governance in Namibia. I would like to see Civic Education taught in Namibian schools so that citizens at from a young age know and live out their responsibilities and rights.
2.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career?
Personally I hardly experienced challenges due to being a woman in my career in Namibia. From a young age, SWAPO and the people who raised me sensitized me [to the idea that] that women and men are equal. East Germany was also a country where women worked hard to earn their living. I was raised by these strong women and men who always reminded me that men won’t give me what I need in life but that I should rather work hard for my achievements.
3.) What are your thoughts on women’s empowerment, and why it is important?
A political scientist and commentator recently suggested that Namibia should conduct a Gender Audit to assess the causes of GBV in Namibia. I fully agree with him. Reason being that our environment is not friendly towards women and families at large.
If you are pregnant in Namibia there is no sign or icon in our private and public institutions to assist you such as the ones for pensioners. Public toilets are rarer to find compared to Shebeens. Besides Walvis Bay, Namibia lacks play grounds for the family and children. Too many children die crossing the road or being simply overlooked by drivers. Namibian local and regional authorities fail families dismally by not providing safe and sufficient playgrounds, roads, communities and affordable afternoon activities for families. A few Traditional Authorities still don’t assist the cause for gender empowerment by having cultural practices that are harmful to women. We still have laws that don’t allow women to conduct proper family planning. The state and the churches still have more rights over a woman’s body then the woman herself. Poverty still affects women more than men. The phenomena of ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘blesser’s’ still apply more to young women to old man ratio. Poverty drives many young girls into prostitution and results in teenage pregnancy and baby dumping. Advertisements in our faces still portray women as the weaker sex and as pleasure toys. If these girls were given a choice and financial assistance they wouldn’t need to look for ‘sugar daddies’. The very men that take out and rape under aged girls are men who would never like their daughters to be touched by such men.
The Gender Audit needs to be done so that we can assess ourselves and our environment, schools and other public and private institutions to understand if we are protecting women and the family in society or if we are all silently contributing to their [discrimination and struggle].
4.) How can gender equality be promoted in the work place?
Let’s start with the Gender Audit in all public and private companies to see where the gaps are. Women and men of the same qualities and experience should be paid equally. Men should also be given paternity leave and paternity money. Mentorship programs and internship opportunities are needed for young people to gain working experience.
5.) How does democracy play a role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment?
The laws are there to protect us. Now, we need to teach them from a young age to learners so that they grow up being conscious citizens.
6.) What is your advice to girls following their dreams?
Surround yourself with good mentors and healthy friendships, ask many questions even if people become annoyed, think for yourself, read many mind-nourishing books, respect fellow women as they are a mirror of yourself and always ask for help if you need it.
7.) What is your motto in life?
You can achieve anything you put your mind to, go for it!