Each Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (Windhoek) celebrates women through its #WednesdayCelebrateWomen social media campaign. This week, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Ms. Kiki Gbeho, the UN Resident Coordinator to Namibia. Read UNIC Windhoek’s interview with Ms. Gbeho to learn more about her role as well as her thoughts on women’s empowerment and gender equality in Namibia.
Could you briefly describe your role as the UN Resident Coordinator to Namibia? What has been the most rewarding part of being in this position?
Key components of my work include to:
1.) Ensure coordinated support to the Government of Namibia, when they request it, to deliver on their national development plans. The UN does this primarily through its partnership framework with the government. The focus is in four areas (Poverty, Health, Education and Environment) with gender and youth cutting across all activities.
2.) Ensure effective advocacy with not only the highest level of Government but also the people of Namibia particularly on the global development agenda 2030/SDGs. Advocacy includes the four partnership areas. The idea is to get across key messages and share best practice and information from all over the globe with Namibia. I have noticed for example that information we share with statistical backing is appreciated on our social media accounts.
3.) I also encourage and support national efforts in disaster risk reduction. For example, currently, the UN is supporting the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a national strategy for mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation into development planning. These efforts are in order to enhance national resilience to disasters. The UN is also supporting Government on Drought Preparedness, through the development of policy and guidelines for nutrition in emergencies.
4.) As the Designated Official, I ensure effective coordination of country-level security and the safety of all UN staff and dependants and lead the inter-agency Security Management Team.
Why is women’s empowerment important?
His Excellency the President has declared a war on Poverty, elaborated the HPP and announced that 2016 is the year of implantation. We will not accelerate development nor eradicate poverty if half the population (51.5% female) are not on board. There are numerous studies that demonstrate that women are great multipliers of development progress. African women are the pillars of the community whether because of the work they carry out as care givers or supporting their families by working on their farms. They are often held back because of lack of recognition and ‘rewards’ for the work they undertake; lack of education; and sometimes insufficient protection.
Africa will not grow, realise Agenda 2063, or the SDGs without investing in women. Women are a resource that is not fully tapped.
Could you please comment on gender inequality in Namibia? If you could take one step only to improve Gender Equality what would it be? How is the UN currently working on Namibia to promote gender equality?
Namibia once again is a leader when it comes to gender; they rank 4th in Africa when it comes to gender parity in parliament (at 47%) and rank number 9 globally. The government has demonstrated political will by rolling out Gender Responsive budgeting and an MA programme at UNAM both in partnership with the UN. Tremendous strides have been made in achieving gender parity in education. Half of the 90 percent of children staying in school until grade 5 are girls. The top four leadership positions in Namibia are equally distributed between men and women. Despite these achievements, challenges remain, when it comes to poverty, incomes of female-headed households are 40% lower than in male headed households. We must, therefore, ensure that frameworks and laws are effective, and can empower and protect women and girls e.g. from gender-based violence, and in essence provide opportunities for them to flourish.
If I could wave a magic wand; the first action would be to strengthen the collection of sex-disaggregated data, on which gender analysis can take place in order to ‘make the case’. This would provide a solid evidence base, drive decision making, action and ultimately to hold decision makers to account.
Currently, the UN is, for example, supporting the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to strengthen institutional capacity to accelerate implementation of the National Gender Plan of Action and the Gender-Based Violence Plan of Action, through stronger civil society engagement. We are also supporting the roll-out of a pilot Gender Responsive Procurement initiative aligned to the women’s economic empowerment.
What is your advice to the younger generation, and especially young girls, in pursuit of their dreams?
A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true. The three actions all young people, especially girls should remember are:
1. Take space: The greatest innovations start with an idea that is acted upon. So how will you seek and seize opportunities, in order that you always have a ‘seat at the table’ on significant issues? We saw youth including Namibian youth participate actively in the drafting of the SDGs, how will you ensure ‘more of the same’ in order to influence the agenda?
2. Be prepared: You never know when opportunity will come knocking. So how will you ensure that when you have that seat at the table, you have just the right message or idea? It takes dedication and hard work to succeed, no matter what field you operate in.
3. And last but definitely not least dare to be different: change is never achieved without challenging yourself or the status quo. Believe your voice is valuable and that your experience counts. Seize an opportunity because you are prepared through an exploration of your unique talent or perspective. And remember one determined person can make a difference!