#WednesdayCelebrateWomen: UNIC Windhoek Celebrates Educator Ottilie Abrahams

20 July 2016

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 Ottilie Abrahams, the principal of Jakob Marengo Tutorial College in Katutura, Windhoek.

Ms. Abrahams was born in Windhoek and attended secondary school and University in Cape Town, where she studied Dutch, Afrikaans, Geography and History. Throughout her studies, she became interested in politics and actively engaged in a variety of political platforms. After University, she returned to Namibia where she continued her engagement, openly voicing criticism against the government and its actions. This critical stance eventually resulted in her family’s deportation into exile in Botswana where she worked as a Secretary for the SWAPO party for ten years.

Ms. Abrahams’ husband also shared her passion for politics, and he strived to bring changes to the people in Namibia. She says, “It was a marriage made in heaven, in political heaven!”

After these years in exile, the family was then granted asylum in Sweden. During that period, Ms. Abrahams was studying to get her doctorate in English Literature. It was another 10 years until they were finally allowed to come back to Namibia in 1978. She then left SWAPO and became Secretary General for National Independence Party (NIP). 

Upon returning to Namibia she saw how different Sweden and Namibia were in terms of gender equality, seeing the immense inequalities and constraints Namibian women faced. Ms Abrahams said that she couldn’t even buy herself a house in Namibia and that her husband had to do it for her, something quite shocking at first, but a valuable experience that inspired her to step it up for women’s rights.

Ms. Abrahams, her husband and a few other people founded an organization called the Namibian National Programme on the principle of participatory democracy, while they also ran a holiday school for students. The students performed so well that they founded their own school, Jakob Marengo Tutorial College, in 1985. The school is a non-governmental school because at the time Namibia was under the doctrine of the South African government. Instead of waiting for the government they took matters into their own hands. “We help ourselves,” Ms. Abrahams emphasized.

Jakob Marengo Tutorial College is founded on three principles: participatory democracy, critical thinking and non-sexism. “By everything we do, the school makes sure that these principles and especially the last, are fulfilled. For example, girls have the same positions as boys do and no boy would dare treat a girl differently and in a non-respectful way because they know that they would be sent to the principal,” she said.

Ms. Abrahams continues, emphasizing the importance of promoting gender equality in education, “People should simply make their students aware of the fact that in this country we believe in gender equality and that it is against the law to discriminate women. Also, we should focus on reaching out the parents and educators because they are the ones bringing up the new generation.”

“If a teacher educates the girls that they are entitled to gender equality, then they will become soldiers themselves. Especially if they see other girls making something of their lives, then they will follow that example,” Ms. Abrahams said.

Emphasizing the importance of gender equality education, she stated, “as we say: when you educate a woman, you educate a family. This country would actually be better off if it would invest more in the education of women.” 

Jakob Marengo Tutorial College also believes in giving second chances, as everyone who applies to the school is accepted. “It is never too late to change something in your life,” Ms. Abrahams says.

After Jakob Marengo, Ms. Abrahams founded a few other schools. The more she got involved in the Participatory Democracy Project, the more she engaged in education, because education also forms the foundation of participatory democracy.

Namibia used to be a very patriarchal country, and Ms. Abrahams explains that many people felt that women in political parties were only there to cook tea and coffee. Because of this, Ms. Abrahams and a few other people decided to found the Namibian Women’s Association, which was the first women’s organization in Namibia, founded by women and for women. 

This organization was also very busy with the Children’s Movement, which has worked with counterparts in South Africa and Angola and now hopes to spread across all countries across Africa. Its premise is that it believes that children can change the world, provided that they are given a little bit of assistance.

Seeing increased gender equality in Namibia over the years, Ms. Abrahams opined, citing the Marriage Equality Act, “By working together with other women’s organization and also the legal assistance, Namibia has achieved a lot when it comes to promoting gender equality in the country.”

Finally, Ms Abrahams said, “girls should understand that they can do whatever they want to in their lives. They should never give up and keep on following their dreams! They should believe in themselves because they are capable of reaching everything they strive for!”

 

 

 

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Leadership, Peace and Security Take Centre Stage at Symposium and Photo Exhibitions on Nelson Mandela Day

19 July 2016

“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself” – Nelson Mandela

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership” – Nelson Mandela

The above two quotations by Nelson Mandela captured the mood and the focus of the symposium, film screening and photo exhibitions organized by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos; the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA); the South African Consulate General, Lagos and the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN) as part of activities for the 2016 Nelson Mandela International Day in Nigeria. 

July 18 every year was declared by the UN General Assembly in November 2009, as the ‘Nelson Mandela International Day’ in recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom. Whilst the General Assembly (UNGA) resolution of 2009 recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity; the UNGA resolution of 2015 on the Nelson Mandela Rules extends the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day to also promote humane conditions of imprisonment, to raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society and to value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance. No doubt, the Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the life and work of a legend who embodied the highest values of the United Nations.

Over 150 participants comprising of representatives of NGOs, media organizations as well as university and high school students visited the exhibitions and briefed during the symposium. The unwavering commitment by Mandela to serve for a single term as the South African president was flagged as a leadership lesson for African leaders. Similarly, his decision to forgive and reconcile with his jailers even when he became the President was noted as a major step responsible for a stable and peaceful post-apartheid South Africa. 

The photo exhibition titled, ‘Life and Times of Nelson of over 60 exhibits of photographs and newspaper cuttings were on display. The exhibition touched on Mandela’s early childhood, the period of the struggle, his incarceration, his release from the prison and his ascendancy to the presidency of South Africa. Further, two short films were screened to the admiration of the audience. They were ‘Nelson Mandela’s Life Story’ and ‘Nelson Mandela: Carrying On His Legacy’.

The symposium featured four key presentations: International Terrorism and Maintenance of Global Peace; Nelson Mandela as a ‘Great Personality of Peace’: Lessons in Leadership for Global Peace; Awareness and Prevention of HIV/ AIDS: The Role of International Personalities, as well as presentations on ‘Students and Maintenance of International Peace and Security” by university students.

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message -on the occasion of the Nelson Mandela International Day which was delivered by the Director of UNIC Lagos to the participants- remembered Nelson Mandela as a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement who worked tirelessly for peace and human dignity. 

COESPU - UNRIC Italy at Training Course in Peace and Security for FPUSs Commanders and Senior Staff

19 July 2016

Strengthening an already very solid and long-lasting partnership, UNRIC Desk for Italy provided the high-ranking officials attending the COESPU training course “Formed Police Units Commander/Senior Staff”, with the UN visual angle on peace and security , in a useful exercise on the eve of their deployment to critical theaters (http://www.carabinieri.it/arma/coespu/attività). UNRIC Italy is the only Europe-based UN agency featuring in the course’s curriculum.  The Desk officer’s segment was titled: “The UN public information activities on the field, central and regional levels – policy, strategy, tools” in presentations addressed to forty high-ranking police officers from African, Asian and Eastern European countries, drawing on resources created by the desk and based on DPI material.

COESPU is the only institution in the world DPKO has formally certified as the training partner, training police forces from throughout the world to be deployed in UN PKOs’ FPUs (Formed Police Units). The course didactics are funded by the US State Department and supervised by DPKO. UNRIC’s participation originates from the 2011 review of COESPU training modules, with the first-ever opening to consideration of the interaction of the different components, including civilians, operating in PK theatres. COESPU appreciates the desk’s original input in the training course, which provides participants with the international civilian’s visual angle of current peacekeeping’s complex aspects and its public information component.

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Cooperation among Agencies in the Justice Sector Key to Implementation of Nelson Mandela Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners

18 July 2016

Coordination and cooperation among agencies in the justice sector is a critical success factor in the implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, otherwise known as the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’.

This was the major resolution reached on 18 July 2016 after the discussion of the Nelson Mandela Rules with scores of Prison Officers drawn from the five prison facilities, including the female medium security prison, in Lagos State, as part of activities for the 2016 Nelson Mandela International Day in Nigeria.

Organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Lagos in collaboration with the South African Consulate General, the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) and the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN), the dialogue generated a lot of interrogations and contributions by the Prison Officers who noted that operational cooperation amongst the Police, the Prisons, the Judiciary and the Bar needed to be improved for any meaningful implementation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules). 

According to the participants, the rules that were presented by the Head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Lagos Office, Mr Glen Prichard, would require an enabling environment and improved political will to implement in Nigeria.

Welcoming the participants, the Controller of Prisons, Lagos State Command, expressed the gratitude of the Nigeria Prisons Service to the United Nations for the training on the Nelson Mandela Rules. He observed that the Nigerian Prison Officers were reputed for their professionalism and retreatment of prisoners with dignity. However, he added that more capacity building initiatives would be welcomed by his Command.