By Timoteus Mashuna
WINDHOEK - HilmaTshilongo is noted to have been an outstanding theologian and one of the early Namibian females to spearhead the struggle against women’s oppression during the colonial era.
This is best reaffirmed in her obituary compiled by Graham Hopwood and published in the Council of Churches of Namibia’s publication entitled CCN Messenger Vol. 1. No 3. In that publication, Hopwood wrote that Hilma “was known as a gentle preacher who used her knowledge of the Bible and its interpretation to communicate God’s message.”
He further added that throughout Hilma’s life “she was committed to helping women overcome the difficulties they face in the church. She was keenly aware of the discrimination women suffer, whilst at Paulinum where male students ignored the contributions of their women colleagues.”
In that, Hilma was not just a preacher but also a stalwart advocate for women’s emancipation from male domination. Hilma was born on the 9th of December 1945 at Elim in Uukwambi. She was the ninth child of Revered Erastus Tshilongo and Kertu Maria NandjambiyaAmakali. During her childhood years, she attended primary school at Tsandi Girls’ School.
However, owing to her desire to offer her academic learning to people as noted by Hopwood, Hilma developed a desire to take up the teaching profession. In 1963, she enrolled for a primary school teacher’s training course at Okahao. She completed her training in 1966 and started to work as a typist for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) at Oniipa in 1967.
Thereafter she went to study theology at the United Evangelical Theological College at Paulinum in Otjimbingwe. She also took up a correspondence course in 1970 to obtain Standard 8 and 10 and ultimately obtained a Bachelor of Theology degree. Besides her illustrious educational career and commitment to women’s emancipation, Hilma could not detach herself from the political context of the Namibian people.
She lived in an era when the apartheid regime was advocating the incorporation of Namibia into the Union of South Africa and this was not an idea that Hilma could support. Speaking to this author, the late Hilma’s husband Pastor Peter Pauly said, “We were all against the South Africanization of Namibia.”
Similar utterances also resurface in her obituary by Hopwood. In reference to Hilma’s political involvement, Hopwood, citing a tribute statement from Rev. Nangula Kathindi, wrote that Hilma “was fully committed to the liberation of her country and worked hard to this end in the north.”
It is also noted that it was during her time at Paulinum that discussions leading up to the sending of an open letter to the South African Prime Minister John Voster in 1971 started. The open letter drafted by the two largest Lutheran Churches in Namibia, vehemently condemned South Africa’s failure to respect human rights in Namibia and stressed that South Africa should comply with the demands of the United Nations, and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice according to which South Africa has no right to be present in Namibia.
Hilma also held several prominent positions in a number of committees and organizations. She served as the President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and represented the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Namibia (ELCIN) on the Education Cluster of the Council of Church of Namibia (CCN).
She is also noted to have participated in international fora such as the United Nations Decade for Women and the Word Federation General Assembly in Brazil. Hilma was married to Pastor Johannes Peter Pauly on the 21st of September 1985. She died on the 8th of September 1991.