"Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation" -Jan Mohr learners shared ways to achieve Goal #5 of the SDGs

14 July 2016

 

Alcohol and substance abuse, early age sexual relations, teenage pregnancy and peer pressure are some of the issues that affect Secondary School learners across Namibia. More than 66% of the Namibian population are aged 30 and below, and if these issues are not addressed, they will continue to affect the younger generation’s academic and social lives.

Starting off the day, the Jan Möhr administration invited Pastor Chris Johnson to bless the girls before they begin with the exams, and he touched on some of the issues which affect students' academic performances and urged the students to stay away from drugs, alcohol and sexual activities. Pastor Johnson’s speech was a great ice breaker for the "Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation" outreach, as it motivated the learners’ to think about problems faced by women across Namibia.

Commencing the Prosperous Paths 5000 girls’ outreach, Ms. Anthea Basson tested the girl’s general knowledge about the UN. Through a combined effort, the learners managed to get the answer correct, and Ms. Basson proceeded to help the students identify the agencies that are operational in Namibia before beginning educating and empowering the young women.

When asked about the problems and challenges they face as girls in their daily lives, the young ladies provided verbatim responses such as: we are challenged most directly by economic concerns today, including things like the cost of living, poverty; pressing concerns in our homes, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/AIDS), making the right choices for a job and career. The girls also eagerly expressed their concerns about equality, equal opportunity and discrimination.

Ms. Basson's insightful interaction with the girls highlighted the key women-specific issues which gave insight into challenges and constraints regularly faced by Namibian women and girls. The presentation outlined statistics of women in management and leadership positions and addressed the issue of gender-based violence, phenomena in Namibia.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO; 2016) report, about 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Further, it has been found that women who have been abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, twice as likely to experience depression and 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Namibia further states that more than 46,000 teenage girls fell pregnant in 2013, amounts to about 127 every day. Ms. Basson emphasized the importance of reaching the Sustainable Development Goal #5: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’, in order to combat these statistics.

As part of the next segment of the program, the learners were challenged to come up with solutions to combat problems women face. The first contribution was from a learner who takes part in Model United Nations Namibia (MUNNAM), who took the initiative with a friend to start a girls' club at the school. She challenged the girls to join ‘Jan Möhr Girls’, a club that aims at empowering girls and promoting a sisterhood whereby the Namibian girl child self-actualizes as an independent woman in order to become self-dependent. She went on to emphasize, that girls should unite and see each other not as competitors for boyfriends, but as sisters who help each other in all areas, from academics to careers. A large cheer erupted from the crowd, as the girls agreed that this would be a good solution to their problems.

The next contributor attested that education is the key to women’s empowerment. She said that if a girl child has education, she can fight to achieve her dreams and perform in leadership positions. In addition, she said that girls should use their God-given talents to help each other and also empower each other. She immediately followed up by adding that the empowered women should go to the rural area where there are people who lack knowledge and motivation and remind them that they can also achieve their dreams. This was in line with the recent UNFPA report that states that the rural areas have the highest rate of pregnancies.

Abstinence was raised as another way of combating teenage pregnancy. Following the statement, a brave teenage mother stood up and told her peers that even teenage mothers can work hard and make a name for themselves. She added that she should not be judged for her mistakes, she has embraced her circumstances and the responsibilities that come with it now. Being a teenage mom "I am adamant in pursuing my education and making a success of it". With the number of adolescent girls estimated at 245 431, the UNFPA Namibia reports that these girls may lack knowledge of or access to conventional methods of preventing pregnancy as they may be afraid to or embarrassed to seek the knowledge.

The audience also directed the discussion on girls and women pleasing their male partners rather than devoting time to reaching their dreams and that girls should start investing in themselves more.

Another fellow student articulated that girls should step up to the plate and help each other and stop putting each other down. The truth is “girls are blasting one another and are their own worst enemies; they are really critical and vicious, particularly of their own sex.” She argued to stop blaming society or men for holding girls and women back, and that it’s time to take a tough look in the mirror.

Basson thanked the students for a meaningful discussion about something that is in our control and something that we can impact on our lifetime. She encouraged the girls to work towards women empowerment and start supporting each other: "Let’s make a conscious decision to be a cheerleader for other women, to stand up and be our greatest advocates, to make a difference".

Up to date, the Centre has visited 7 high schools, 2940 girls within the capital with our immediate focus on reaching 5000 girls. The "Prosperous Path, Leading in Vocation" programme certainly is reaping the intended benefits as well as raising awareness of issues that affect women and girls in Namibia. The programme also laid the foundation of follow-up activities for an educational outreach initiative with street children, school dropouts etc.

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#WednesdayCelebrateWomen: UNIC Windhoek Celebrates Educator Bridget Jenkins

13 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 Bridget Jenkins, a history teacher and Deputy Principal at St. Paul’s College in Windhoek, Namibia.

Before finding herself at St. Paul’s, Bridget was born and raised in a rural village along the coast of South Wales. At the age of 16, she had the opportunity to attend an international college that aims to develop international understanding, the United World College of the Atlantic, where she met people from all around the world. This experience had a large impact on Bridget that she continued her education at University in York.

Through her University’s Centre of Southern African Studies, she became interested in the history of southern Africa and met many Namibians who were campaigning for Independence at the time. Her experiences motivated her to continue studying and she finished with a Masters of Arts in African History and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). She has been teaching and enjoying a career in education ever since.

Bridget stressed the importance of children receiving a quality education that motivates them to question about the world. She stated, “Education needs to teach people how to ask why, as well as how to critically assess and engage with what they are taught and told.”  

This type of quality education is something that Bridget said should start from an early age. “I feel the most important stage of any education is the very start. What happens in pre-primary, lays the foundation for primary education, and primary education [lays the foundation] for secondary education? An ideal world would give young children nourishment for the mind, imagination and body as a right,” she explained.

In terms of promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, Bridget emphasized that education is a very important tool. She said, “Education improves life chances and earning power. Probably the most important aspect of education is the larger number of choices it provides women.”

Describing a situation through which she was told that she would not be chosen for a position because two women could not work together, she responded, “Misogyny and sexism are rife.”

In order to combat this, Bridget works to give girls equal opportunities, especially in the classroom. “I want to give girls an equal opportunity to talk and contribute in classroom discussion, addressing gender balance in the classroom. Girls should experience equal airtime as [boys].”

A dedicated educator, Bridget works as a full-time history teacher and as part of the administration at St. Paul’s college. Although she has a busy schedule, she has been dedicated to ensuring that there are extra-curricular opportunities at the school, including UNIC Windhoek’s Model United Nations Namibia (MUNNAM) programme.

“When UNIC Windhoek started the MUN programme, I immediately decided St. Paul’s would join. It provides a wonderful opportunity for students at high school level to engage with global issues and actively learn how international diplomacy and discussion work,” Bridget explains.

Her advice to young girls is to “work hard and don’t be deterred by setbacks. There is usually more than one route to achieve a goal.”

She also encourages girls to not be scared to ask for help, especially when working to achieve these goals. “Don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it – other women, your community, the Internet - sources are endless!” she cheered.

Finally, you will most likely find Bridget reading, as she lives by her life motto of always having something to read. 

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Prosperous Paths: Windhoek Technical School Learners Shared Solutions to Solve Gender Inequality

13 July 2016

The UN System in Namibia engaged with over 410 girls from Windhoek Technical School as part of ‘Prosperous Paths’, a programme that aims at empowering and educating Namibian girls. The girls were very supportive and excited to be part of the campaign, as involved in meaningful discussions regarding issues of gender inequality with the UN System staff.

Ms. Anthea Basson, the National Information Officer to Namibia, started by introducing the mandate of the United Nations and asked questions to evaluate the learners’ knowledge of the UN and its work in Namibia. 

She then asked the learners the question “What are the biggest challenges facing women and girls in Namibia, and how do we solve them?” The girls impatiently awaited their turn to voice their concerns on issues affecting women and girls, and they passionately shared their insight and proposed solutions.

Throughout the debate and discussion with UNIC, the girls shared their wisdom on why the plight facing women and girls is the most critical issue of our time--and what we can do about it. This debate set the stage for numerous concerning issues that are affecting the 66% of the Namibian population under 30 years old. 

The girls mentioned rape, prostitution, the presence of a discouragement culture perpetuated by male teachers and a lack of support from various institutions. Cheers from the crowd could be heard after each student spoke, nonverbally depicting that these issues are things that affect many women and girls across Namibia.

After a presentation regarding the Sustainable Development Goal #5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the floor was once again opened for the learners to voice their views on solutions to problems that Namibian women face. 

Loud whispers could be heard as the girls brainstormed ideas with one another. From the hands selected, one student encouraged her classmates by stating that girls should go for the jobs that have been gender-stereotyped reserved for men. 

Another learner passionately told the group that men alone are not to blame for the suppression of women and she explained that women are to blame to an extent as well. Her reason being that “many women just sit and expect the jobs and opportunities to come to them without them working hard to acquire them” she said. Motivating the crowd, she left the girls with the message, “If you want it, go get it!”

The students are of the opinion that women should own their self-worth and speak up in the hour of need. It is time we own the right to speak up our minds for what we believe is right.  

The UN System in Namibia was commended for the insightful and engaging programme, and the students requested more educational and empowering programmes being brought to the school. 

The UNIC team is very close in reaping the benefits of the Prosperous Paths, Leading in Vocation programme. Up to date over 2,000 girls have been reached and actively participated in this outreach programme.

 

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Bangladesh Model UN 2016

13 July 2016

With the strategic partnership of UNIC Dhaka, UN Youth and Students Association organized a four-day long UN simulation - Bangladesh Model United Nations - BANMUN 2016 at Adamjee Cantonment College auditorium on 13 July 2016. The Honourable Member of Parliament Advocate Sanjida Khanam inaugurated the MUN as chief guest while UNIC Officer-in-Char spoke as guest of honour. Over 650 students from 58 schools and colleges gathered at the MUN conference. In her speech, the chief guest hoped that the simulation would help students to strengthen their knowledge on the global issues. Principal of the Adamjee Cantonment College Brig Gen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury and Nahim Razzak, MP spoke as special guests. The students will discuss all the 17 goals of the new SDGs under 10 committees.

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