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.