WINDHOEK – A woman who clawed her way out of poverty by working hard in school has challenged other women to embrace education whatever their age, saying it is one of the surest ways out of poverty and a miserable life.
Margaret Bandora made the call recently when she delivered a motivational talk to scores of people who thronged a dinner dance and fundraising event organized by the Tanzania Group of Women in Windhoek. Born in Shinyanga, one of the impoverished parts of Tanzania, Bandora is married to the United Nation’s top representative in Namibia, Ambassador Musinga Bandora. With an impressive academic record, she is a human resources specialist with many years of experience working for international organisations in Tanzania and abroad. After studying in France she secured a job with the UN in Switzerland. She eventually moved to Congo, after which she got married. She is passionate about education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree online with a University in the United Kingdom. “I suppose most people would think I have it all – the spouse of the UN Ambassador – why bother myself with studying and at my age? Well, I do not let people discourage me to pursue my dreams. Life is about choices and pursuing dreams,” she said.
Describing her husband as a career diplomat, she said she decided to follow him and support him in his career, which enabled her to live in different countries all over the world. In 2003 the couple moved to New York when the husband landed a job with the UNDP. “My life changed. For the first time I did not work. It was a mutual decision between my husband and I, considering the lifestyle in New York and that our children were young. I became a housewife and took care of the children.” She said while raising her children, she decided to study further with Kean University, from where she graduated with a BA degree in Public Administration, which she passed with distinction.
“I decided to go back to college for my own sake and also to inspire my children. It is all about choices and sacrifices. Women play key roles in supporting and holding their families together. As a mother and wife I made a choice to follow my husband and to be there with my children to support him in his career and their studies respectively.” She said when women tell their children to study hard and when they support their spouses, they should not forget to uplift themselves academically. “Education is power. Education is knowledge that opens doors to so many opportunities,” advises Bandora.
She noted that most women in the Tanzanian Women Group in Windhoek are business people or professionals, which could make some of them complacent. “You could still add knowledge to whatever you are doing. Educate yourselves and share your knowledge with others. As you conduct business, you need education to sharpen your skills to grow your businesses. For example, how to use technology to track and control inventory, how to file taxes, and know the laws and business incentives that exist in the country.” Bandora says education can also help women diversify into other business areas. Stressing that education was not confined to books and classrooms, she challenged women to exercise and keep their bodies fit and healthy. She says she draws profound inspiration from the optimism of suffering women and girl children who lack education, but see their liberation in it.
“I am also inspired by women who have, against all odds, gone on to get an education that has empowered them to do good in society,” she says. She cited the example of Zimbabwe’s Dr. Tererai Trent, who as a young girl lived without running water and electricity in rural Zimbabwe. The fact that Tererai’s father denied her an education, arguing that she would get married and leave the family made her future appear bleak, according to Bandora. Desperate to learn, Tererai secretly did her brother’s homework, learning to read and write in the process. Soon her secret was exposed and a teacher begged her father to allow her to attend school. Sadly, Tererai attended only two terms before she was forced to marry at the age of 11. By age 18, she was the mother of three. “In 1991, a visitor changed Tererai’s life forever. Jo Luck from Heifer International asked women about their greatest dreams – something many of them did not know they were allowed to have,” she says.
Tererai said she wanted go to America to have an education. Bandora told her audience that it came to pass and Tererai eventually went on to earn a doctorate degree. “With the help of Oprah Winfrey, Tererai went back to her rural village in Zimbabwe and opened a school for girls,” she says. Bandora also cited the example of Kalunde, a woman from her own village who in spite of her sad circumstances, which included being expelled from school for falling pregnant, still sees education as the key to her empowerment and liberation of society. Bandora expressed concern over teenage pregnancies, which she said was rampant in many parts of Africa including her own country, Tanzania, and in parts of Namibia, especially in the Kavango and Kunene regions. “Only education can liberate that young girl who is trapped in poverty and sexual exploitation. Education can empower that young girl and woman to take part in decisions on their reproductive health and family planning. It can harness the immense resourcefulness of girls and women trapped in societal prejudices that give preference to educating the boy child,” she said. According to her one is never too old to go back to school.
By Moses Magadza