Namibia is rising!

25 Oct

Last week I gave the keynote speech at the Old Mutual Women’s summit, held in Windhoek, Namibia.

The last time I had visited Windhoek was in 2004 when I was the face of Namibian fashion week. I remember the visit, as I had been received well and the event was a success. I also noted that there had been a rise in female entrepreneurship and businesswomen but like South Africa at the time, we still had a long way to go. This visit painted an entirely different picture in an incredibly positive way.

On arrival I consumed the beautiful positive energy of the beautiful city. I could feel a definite change in the pride and energy of the people. When I travel I make it a point to engage in conversation with as many different people as possible, so I can get a sense of the country and atmosphere. I make it a habit of speaking to people from different environments, for a number of reasons, firstly we never know what journeys people are on so their present state they may be in transition or preparing themselves for a better life and secondly, the true essence of a country is brought out through the attitudes of its inhabitants. The common thought pattern of all four people was that they love their country and simply adore their president. This sentiment was carried through to all the women that I met the following ay at the summit.

I found this rather interesting and powerful. What had this leader done to gain so much respect from many people? As South Africa is in a rather volatile position and many of us are not happy with our current leadership for a number of reason, I thought that it is quite refreshing that a country spoke only positively of their leadership, I have to say that I was quite envious.

Growing up, we were taught and we knew that Namibia was once under the apartheid regime but after our independence, I personally did not follow their political journey. So I had lost track on how they handled transformation and the eradication of racist ideology.

I then began to dig deeper as to why he was loved so much. The main key points that I found was that he is seen as being transparent, a man who strongly believes in transformation and has made major strides in achieving transformation, not only on a cultural level but on gender equity as well. There is a consensus that he is one with the people by not living an extravagant lifestyle. Himself an the first lady are often seen out amongst the community, whether it be in a rural or up market setting but what is so notable is that often he is seen to be mingling amongst the crowd. The one lady with whom I spoke to on this, said she had met him and the first lady at a restaurant setting and ended up dancing with them, after a few hours later, after hearing somebody refer to him as Your excellency, she asked who he was and was then informed that he’s actually the president.

As I probed even more I discovered that they has implemented effective measure for gender equality which are also spearheaded by the first lady, they also have an effective land transformation policy.

Moving to the function at hand, the room was filled with some of Namibia’s most powerful women. They came from all the sectors from middle to senior level. I was rather overwhelmed that I would be addressing approximately 300 of Namibia’s most revered businesswomen.

The line up included the following dynamic individuals:

  1. Daisry Mathias: Daisry is the Namibia presidential advisor for youth and enterprise. A powerful 30 year old woman who has a solid direction of where she is going and what needs to be done in order to achieve it. She is incredibly passionate, grounded and force to be reckoned with. She spoke about reimagining h Namibian heroine. One of her key question, which she posed, was: How are the youth inspired when they are surrounded by unemployed graduates and rich criminals? This is not an African problem but also a global problem. These are some of the issues that she tackles in her demanding job. I wished to have engaged with her more but unfortunate duty called and she had to return to the president’s office.
  1. Ntsiki Biyela: The master winemaker who is head of Stellekaya wines and businesswoman from South Africa. In being hired, she was South Africa’s fist black female winemaker. She spoke on her personal journey of falling into the wine industry by accident. Driven by the urge to create a better life for herself, she started looking for opportunities outside of her village. Working as a domestic worker before receiving a scholarship to study winemaking, she spoke fondly of her first memories of tasting wine and not understanding its weird bitter taste. Her first red wine won a gold medal at the Michelangelo awards. She now has her own brand, Asina, named after her grandmother.
  2. Liesel Dentlinger: A transformation and HR specialist. Originally from Namibia but has been living in South Africa for almost a decade. Speaking during her three month sabbatical on the philosophies of the themes of the day. She spoke on how we have the responsibility to reclaim our position in society in order to grow to recycle our previous beliefs on what transformation is to what it can be. One of her strong quotes was: Behind every woman is a tribe of women who have her back.
  1. Heidi Burmeester: Clinical psychologist. She spoke on recycling your thoughts and behaviors to reclaim your life. She spoke on the thought-emotion-behaviour link. On how change creates many effects in our body and our chemical composition, often creating a lot of discomfort. These various issue with unpacked. Closing off with ideas on how we can change.
  2. Nangado Kauluma: What’s love got to do wit fit? A fitness and health invigorator. Spoke on the way women’s bodies are perceived in the media and social sites. She gave us insight into her person journey of how she became to understand her body and how to ensure that she leads a health and nutritious lifestyle. She is the founder and director of Pulse Health and wellness, based in Windhoek. She runs the business with two other women and their focus is on Pilates, core training, zumba and nutrition.
  3. I gave the final talk on knowing your destiny. I shared my personal stories of overcoming abuse, using life’s challenges to better my life and to try be the voice for the voiceless, I also touched on my Kilimanjaro journeys and what lessons I took away from those experiences.

 

The event was hosted by another amazing soul, Natasha Phatela, originally of Caribbean decent but has been residing in Namibia, she brought the days event together is such a beautiful and harmonious manner, with laughter, tears and important facts. Another highlight of the day was the powerful performances by a young guitarist and singer who goes by the name of Heather. Her first performance was her rendition of a Tracy Chapman classic, she began strumming in a deep monotone voice and then surprised us all as she raised the bar and began belting out in a high pitch. Her debut album I to be released in January.

To the women of Namibia, I salute you and I thank you for the sterling hospitality and invigorating experience.

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