From June to August 2016, the UN System in Namibia facilitated a series of informative talks with 5000 young girls at schools in Windhoek. The ‘Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation’ programme educated the girl-child about Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely gender equality, and encouraged learners to follow their dreams. A selection of girls were invited to the follow up programme, ‘Prosperous Paths: Fostering Female Leadership’ which aims to equip girls with skills and information to empower girls in the community.
On 7 November 2016, the ‘Prosperous Paths: Fostering Female Leadership’ started, a week long, full day programme filled with discussions, invited speakers and practical exercises addressing some of the common questions and gaps young girls spoke about at the 5000 girls talks.
A group of girls from different schools in Windhoek as well as NAMCOL gathered at the UN House in Klein Windhoek to further their journey in the ‘Prosperous Paths: Fostering Female Leadership’ programme.
The learners met in the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek library where they were welcomed by Anthea Basson, the National Information Officer and introduced to the UNIC Windhoek team. As they waited in suspense for the programme to start, the learners expressed that they were both excited and nervous.
Immediately testing their public speaking skills, Basson asked the learners to partner up and ask a few questions to their partner to get to know them. The learners then introduced their partners to the group, standing up and boldly sharing their partner’s name, which school they attend and a fun fact about them.
The learners then watched Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business, a video about the principles of women empowerment. The seven principles, as outlined in the video are; leadership promotes gender equality; equal opportunity, inclusion and non-discrimination; health, safety and freedom from violence; education and training; enterprise development supply chain and marketing practices; community leadership and engagement; and transparency, measuring and reporting.
After learning more about the importance of these principles and removing barriers that exist for people of certain genders, the learners were encouraged to interact and engage in a meaningful discussion.
The learners excitedly shared their thoughts on bringing about change, stressing the importance of using their voice to give voices to other women who are frequently silenced by abusers and other challenges.
They also explained that education is of the utmost importance as quality education leads to women being qualified for more jobs, it opens doors for women to pursue vocational positions and it fosters female leaders who can lead and be empowered in the workplace.
After a fruitful discussion, the learners were introduced to Kiki Gbeho, the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) to Namibia and were inspired by her motivating words. She reminded the learners that, “as women, we are stronger than we think”, emphasing that the learners can achieve a lot of things if they put their minds to it.
The UNRC also highlighted the importance of humanitarian work and positively influencing the lives of those in each learners’ own community, saying that one has not begun living until they are able to change the life of someone else. Ms. Gbeho left the learners with three very meaningful pointers to use throughout their lives, namely; take space, always be prepared and dare to be different.
After learning more about women’s empowerment and how to use their individual, unique skills to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants, the learners were tasked to complete a few team-building exercises. Through these exercises, the learners put their problem-solving skills to the test, strategised to come up with solutions, communicated effectively and build relationships.
It was a day well spent. The learners left feeling empowered and eager to return for the programme the next day, as they had discovered the immense potential within each of them. They also learned that they all have dreams and that they have to chase them.
The ‘Prosperous Paths: Fostering Female Leadership’ programme will continue for the rest of the week. Each day, the learners will discuss and debate topics surrounding women’s empowerment, leadership and gender equality.