In order to promote women’s empowerment and to generate awareness of the importance of gender equality, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments each Wednesday. For this week’s #WCW #WednesdayCelebrateWomen, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Lineekela Usebiu, the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Namibia (UNAM).
Check out Lineekela’s interview with UNIC Windhoek! Read along as she shares her thoughts on women’s empowerment and gender equality.
1.) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?
I am 26 years old, and I was born in Angola. I grew up in the northern part of Namibia, and completed my schooling in Tsumeb (Tsumeb Secondary School). I hold a Bachelor of Jurisprudence (BJuris) and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Namibia and a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Trade (Mercantile) Law from the University of Stellenbosch. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Intellectual Property at the University of Cape Town. I started lecturing part-time at the University of Namibia in July 2013. In August the same year, I was appointed as a full-time lecturer. I am currently serving as the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law, effective from January 2016. I am also a Commissioner at the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), a position I have held since 2015.
2.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career?
As an academic, there are a whole lot of other things that are expected of one besides teaching classes and assessing students. One has to do research and publish as well as engage the community. This poses quite a challenge as all these activities are time-consuming and balancing them poses quite a challenge. This is especially more so if you have studies on the side as well.
As a Deputy Dean, the expectations are the same as above, but with added responsibilities, so proper time-management becomes even more imperative. Another challenge that I am always faced with relates to students and issues that come to my office. I always have to be very careful about the decisions I make as these affect people’s lives, so I have to ensure that they are not rash. I pray for wisdom everyday so I can make the right decisions at the right time. And I can truly say that this wisdom has been supplied every time I have asked.
3.) What are your thoughts on women’s empowerment, and why it is important?
We speak of empowerment because somehow there is an imbalance in society. There is a need to grant "power" to those who have been disempowered. There are many synonyms of power: ability, capacity, potential, competence. The past experiences have left a legacy of an imbalanced playing field for men and women in all spheres of life, primarily because their capacities are not realized and potentials are not recognized. In order to address this, special attention and efforts have to be directed towards granting women that assistance they need to "play on a levelled ground".
This assistance is necessary because it not only addresses past injustices that women faced, but it is also beneficial to the economy of any one state as there will be contributions made by all in society. Kofi Annan once said that, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”, and I am in total agreement. To not empower women is to not want development. I believe empowerment should start with the girl child by availing opportunities that were previously denied to her [which are] translated right through to adulthood. Women have to be given the opportunity to capacitate themselves so as to be able to do things that have so easily been availed to men.
4.) How can the legal profession promote gender equality?
One thing that always springs to mind when I hear of equality is "substantive equality". Formal equality is absolutely futile in addressing gender disparities. There has to be special measures in place that allow women (to have) some form of advantage over men, a sort of gender discrimination tilted in favour of women. The Legal Action Group (LAG) profession has been dominated by men in the past. It is now time for competent and equally able women to be given the necessary platforms and opportunities to positively contribute to legal discourse. There has, of course, been improvement with more and more women opening their own law firms, sitting on benches and taking up leadership positions in justice departments.
5.) Do you think the law in Namibia promotes gender-justice?
I do believe Namibia has been on a gender-justice movement. There are policies and laws in place that are specifically aimed at addressing gender injustice. I can therefore say that the law does promote it. Whether or not it is effective is another issue altogether. Effective implementation of any law or policy is cardinal to its success.
6.) What is your advice to girls following their dreams?
I say “go for it and don’t quit”. The dreams you have are relevant and they matter. Do not let anyone look down on you because you are a woman. Rather, work hard and let your conduct and work speak for itself. People cannot deny output- it has a voice of its own and it speaks loud and shuts up all opposition. It does not have a gender or an age. I encourage you to work hard and remain focused. Whether you succeed or fail can only be determined by you. Don’t lose your uniqueness by following the crowd and doing what everyone is doing, but fuel that which sets you apart from everyone else because in the end, that is what distinguishes you from the rest of the society.
7.) What is your motto in life?
If it has been done before, it can be done. If it has never been done before, let me be the first. Either way, just do it.