#WCW: UNIC Windhoek Celebrates Broadcast Journalist and Radio Presenter Tara Van Eck

18 August 2016

Each Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments. This Wednesday, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Tara Van Eck, a broadcast journalist and radio presenter at Kanaal 7. 

In an interview with UNIC Windhoek, Tara shares her thoughts on women’s empowerment and the power of broadcast journalism in promoting positive change. 

Check out her interview!

1.) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

I grew up in a very creative home. You know, in a ‘dance to Elvis while cleaning the dishes’ kind of way. My mom is a ballet teacher and she also raised three girls as a single parent. I am a strong woman because a strong woman raised me, and I am so proud to call her my mom.

After school, I sold my car, bought a one-way ticket and moved to London for four years where I completed my ballet studies and also started to work and study in the Dental Industry. I worked with people from all over the world and chose to integrate with different cultures rather than to only work with people who came from the same neck of the wood that I did. After all, I went to London to learn and grow. After 11 years in Dentistry, I met my Namibian husband and we moved from Cape Town to the beautiful town I now call home, Swakopmund.

With my performing background, I guess venturing into broadcasting was inevitable. I like to believe that my travels and previous career path helped to shape me into the woman I am today. In a city as diverse as London, I had the opportunity to live in a richly diverse anthropological environment and learn as well as experience so many different cultures. When I moved to Swakopmund, I saw a vacancy add for a sales representative at a local radio station, not knowing anything about sales I applied and got the job. I acted as Social Upliftment Coordinator under the Radio Stations Random Acts of Kindness initiative; securing resources to start the first rehabilitation programme at Namibia’s Swakopmund prison. 

I desperately wanted to sit behind a microphone and live my childhood dream. I pushed boundaries, and after some time, it happened. I was fortunate to be trained by some of the best radio broadcasting journalists in Namibia, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As a young woman, I suffered from depression for 10 years due to a traumatic experience I had as a girl. That’s 10 years of my life I can never get back all because I felt shame and punished myself for something a grown man did. It took me 10 years to realise that by not forgiving this man, I’m only poisoning myself.  So, I forgave and exchanged shame with faith, gratitude and self-love.  It’s amazing what you can do and achieve in life if you have self-love and faith.

When it comes to trauma counselling, I try to help wherever I can. In Cape Town, I volunteered at Stikland Rehabilitation Hospital, and I helped out with the first rehabilitation programme for Namibian Prisoners in Swakopmund. I do believe every single one of us can contribute to positive change in this world. Now that I have a voice, I intend to use it wherever I can to help guide victims in the direction of victory.

2.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career? 

As an ambitious woman, I’ve had to deal with a lot of challenges along the way. When you work in broadcast media, everything you do in the public eye and your personal life becomes magnified. Unfortunately, not everybody will like you in this industry, and discrimination because of your gender and age also play a big role in your likability. 

Suddenly people who only know your radio persona start to judge everything about you, as if they know you personally. Luckily I have only come across a few of these bullies in my life, but I’m still young. I am a strong woman and will never quit because my gender or age is a threat to someone else, but what saddens me is that so many young women who start out in this industry leave because they can’t handle the constant criticism and discrimination.

3.) What are your thoughts on women’s empowerment, and why is it important?

Even though we have come a long way, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to empower women. High power positions in corporations around the world are still dominated by men. Even though women are educated and capable of doing anything men can do, they are still being rejected as leaders because they are viewed as distracted when they are mothers or deemed too emotional. Women have to work harder in order to prove themselves to their male counterparts, and even if they manage to become a CEO or Prime Minister there is still the huge payment gap issue.

But apart from these issues, one of the biggest problems women face are one another.  We criticise, gossip and humiliate other women on a daily basis. We badmouth women who don’t breastfeed their babies rather than comfort them because they already feel like a failure for not being able to. We are jealous of other women’s success when we should celebrate their victories with them. We break each other down when we should be uplifting one another. When you gossip about a news anchor’s hairstyle or the way she speaks, that’s nothing more than bullying, and quite frankly, taking a step backwards for women’s empowerment. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. She’s a woman who has struggled just like any of us, and she deserves respect especially from other women. Let’s start with ourselves first. We can’t stand together if we keep on tearing each other apart.

Women are the backbone of a society,  so if you empower a girl the empowerment will ripple into the next generation.

3.) How can broadcast journalism be used to bring about positive change?

Media can be used to create positive change, but unfortunately, media more often than not tends to lean towards branding bullying as socially acceptable, especially when it comes to women. Gossip magazines out-way positive alternatives. If a woman is not too fat she’s too thin, women with strong opinions get branded as emotional. Women are viewed as child rearing, sex objects and if they are ‘strong career women’, they are deemed to be bad mothers. With these ridiculous world views, it’s no wonder women feel guilty, worthless and scared to speak their mind.

Luckily, ladies all over the world are starting a revolution to create positive change and it’s about time. Women and men in media and the public eye are speaking out about the challenges that are still faced by women and girls every day. Working in Broadcast journalism, it is my duty as a woman to promote positive change and raise awareness in this regard wherever I get the opportunity to do so. We have to be strong role models and pave the way for future generations.

4.) What is your advice to young girls following their dreams?

Walk with confidence and passion in the direction of your dreams. Work hard and always stay open to advice from elder role models. Remember it’s not going to be smooth sailing all the time and that’s ok, when we fail we learn. Criticism is inevitable. Never believe people when they say your dreams are silly, rather use that criticism as a catalyst to add to the base of your dreams and use that reaction in the direction of your success. And always remember to be kind, grateful and humble.

5.) What is your motto in life?

Be passionately hungry in everything you do in life. No dream will ever be realised in isolation you have to go out there with your vulnerability on your sleeve and make it happen and be seen as the beautiful, inspirational and courageous woman you are. Life can be beautiful if you believe in yourself.

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#UN4U: Gammas Primary School Pupils Want to Spark Change in Namibia

16 August 2016

On Tuesday, 16 August 2016, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek Team set out for Gammas Primary School in Khomasdal, Windhoek, excited to bring the #UN4U to another school in the capital city.

The UNIC Windhoek team was welcomed by the principal and was escorted to the hall, where the students were already assembled eagerly waiting for the UNIC Windhoek team to arrive and for the presentation to commence. The presentation started with a brief introduction of the United Nations, with a special look at its establishment and the work it does. Because the information in this part of the presentation is mostly fact-based, there has not been a lot of participation during this portion at the previous 6 schools that took part in the #UN4U program. However, this was not the case with the learners at Gammas Primary School. The students confidently answered questions concerning the establishment of the UN as well as who the Secretary-General is, and some of them even shared with the team that they wanted to grow up to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

This immense engagement with the students was only a sign of bigger things to come, as the learners were so excited that their hands were up in the air the entire time throughout the second half of the presentation. Not only did the students answered questions the UNIC Windhoek team posed at them, but also asked the team very interesting questions such as "if the rich were to give to the poor would this lessen the gap between the rich and the poor" and "Is education the way to go". One of the learners, who had an immense understanding of history, spoke about colonialism and how this contributed to poverty. When asked how they will help achieve the SDGs, the learners shared their plans of choosing a career through which they can make a difference in the lives of those around them. One learner confidently stood up and said, “I would like to study medicine and become a good doctor so that I can open my own hospital and help people.” The teachers Social Studies came up to the presenters afterwards and complimented them on a job well done. The UNIC Windhoek team, impressed by the learners’ level of discipline and knowledge, praised the pupils.

Up-to-date, the #UN4U program has reached primary level students at seven different schools across Windhoek. Not only did students increase their knowledge of the United Nations, but they have been inspired to bring about change and to achieve the SDGs. Encouraged by the positive reception of the #UN4U program, UNIC Windhoek plans to bring similar initiatives to schools in the future.

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#UN4U: Suiderhof Primary School Pupils Learn about the United Nations

15 August 2016

On Monday, 15 August 2016, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek team visited Suiderhof Primary School, marking the sixth outreach of the #UN4U outreach program. The program aims at enlightening primary school learners about the United Nations and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNIC Windhoek team was warmly welcomed by the school’s principal and escorted to the school’s main assembly hall where grade 6 and 7 learners assembled for the presentation. The presentation had a great kick start with the leaner’s jovially greeting the team and agreeing to pay special attention to the presentation.

The learners’ were with high spirits because they had just finished writing their last examination. Seeing how eager these young minds were to learn, the UNIC Windhoek team was reminded of the passion the younger generation has and their ability to bring about change. Thus, it is important to promote quality education to ensure that the younger generation is able to use their skills and talents to make a difference in the world.

On top of this, many of the SDGs can only be achieved once quality education is guaranteed for all people of all ages. Specifically, education at an early age is important because it helps to shape the young children’s mind into becoming responsible and productive citizens. Therefore, the promotion of Goal 4 is crucial in transforming the world and promoting sustainable development.

Hands flew up across the school hall every time the UNIC Windhoek team asked a question. The students offered valuable ways through which the SDGs can be achieved and promoted, such as using other forms of energy, combating climate change and ensuring zero hunger. One learner suggested that more trees should be planted and another said that Namibia should focus on reducing air pollution. Apart from answers, these learners also had intriguing questions such as "what would have happened in the world if the UN was never created", "how many UN agencies are they in total" and, "how can the UN help educate men on gender-based violence in Namibia". In the end, a group photo was taken with the learners smiling from ear to ear, holding the SDG posters in excitement.

The school’s motto reads ‘Werk en Skitter’ which translates from Afrikaans into ‘Work and Shine’. Besides shining brightly throughout the presentation, the learners were even eager to engage with the team after the presentation.

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“Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation” Reached 5000 Girls Across Windhoek

10 August 2016

Friday, 29 July 2016, was a memorable day for the UN System and 700 female learners at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Katutura, Windhoek. After one month and 12 outreaches, the ‘Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation’ programme surpassed its target of educating 5000 girls on gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

Exactly one month before on 29 June 2016, Ms. Kiki Gbeho, the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) to Namibia launched ‘Prosperous Paths’ at Jakob Marengo Tutorial College. Not only did Ms. Gbeho shared her personal story of hard work and success to over 600 female learners, she also spread the message of self-empowerment and self-determination to the enthusiastic crowd. Since then, the UN System, namely  Ms. Dennia Gayle from UNFPA Namibia and Ms. Anthea Basson from UNIC Windhoek, spoke to girls across the capital city about the importance of striving to achieve Goal #5 of the Sustainable Development Goals - ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. 

With each ‘Prosperous Paths’, the number of empowered young girls increased and the power of such a programme to foster change and promote women’s agency became ever more evident throughout the course of July.

In celebration of this great success, the UN System in Namibia hosted a special ceremony at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School. Starting off the day, Namibian saxophonist Suzy Eises, guitarist and singer Black Velvet and singer Slickartie opened the event with a musical repertoire of latest chart toping songs, fusing jazz into the performance. The young female crowd enthusiastically sang along, applauding and cheering for an encore. 

The excitement rose even further as Suzy took the audience on a journey through her personal experience as well as the challenges she faced as a female musician in Namibia. Emphasizing the importance of hard work, Suzy motivated the crowd and encouraged the girls to dream big, stand up for one another and make their voices heard.

Suzy’s inspiring story and testimony were a perfect transition to the keynote address by Ms. Kiki Gbeho, who engaged the audience in an open dialogue on gender issues in Namibia, explained the UN’s concrete action plans in combating gender injustice as well as listened to suggestions from the girls of how to tackle these inequalities in order to bring about change.

One core topic being addressed was the high drop-out rate of female learners and it’s relation to teenage pregnancy and juvenile labour. The audience was alarmed as the UNRC explained that approximately 10,000 students discontinue school every year and confront them with other statistics regarding female learners dropping-out of school. According to the statistics compiled by the Education Management Information System (EMIS), the major cause of the high dropout rates is pregnancy, which caused 2,896 girls (and involved boys) leaving school in 2011 and 2012. 

Astonished by this fact, the girls openly shared their opinions on how to jointly tackle this predicament, and most importantly, the students emphasized the importance of encouraging fellow female students to continue with academics even if they fall pregnant both, for their own good and that of their child. 

Among other solutions shared, one girl passionately encouraged the crowd to, “stand side by side and form a female alliance in the school”, she said, “instead of bringing each other down, girls should learn to value and respect one another, because together we are strong!” Ms. Gbeho strongly supported this proposition and urged the audience to start their own girls club at the school, a place where every female learner is warmly welcomed, helped and inspired by a great and unconditional appreciation. 

At the end of the ‘Prosperous Paths’ outreach, Suzy, Slickartie and Black Velvet played a few more songs before a photo was taken to celebrate the achievement of educating and empowering 5,000 learners.

Moved by the learners’ passion for bringing changes, the UN System in Namibia will continue its service to the girl child in Namibia by launching a follow-up campaign as part of the Prosperous Paths outreach this November. This campaign provides female youth with the opportunity to work with the UN staff in reaching out to other young learners and jointly empowering them to be confident, independent and courageous. 

The UN System is optimistic that with the help of the bright and passionate girls, gender equality can and will be achieved for every Namibian woman and that all women will be able to bring about positive change along their Prosperous Paths.

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