Opuwo Girls Find Club Refreshing

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By Michael Liswaniso OPUWO Every Friday afternoon, some school girls aged between 13 and 20 years are seen dressed in pink T-shirts branded Opuwo Girls Club with the club’s motto ‘Girls arise and speak with one voice’ on the front. The T-shirts also feature small life advisory words on it. They are not just roaming the streets but in actual fact heading straight to the Opuwo youth centre where weekly workshops on various social and cultural themes are discussed. Though it is a weekly routine, stares from onlookers in the hub of Kunene are still inevitable whenever a group of these young girls is seen heading for their Friday afternoon gathering. Mainly from the two secondary schools, Mureti senior Secondary School and Putwavanga Junior Secondary School, the learners say the club equips them with general life skills and refreshes their minds after their hectic weekly school schedules. “I only used to sit, bored, and felt sleepy on a Friday afternoon but I now have even a better way to do it, by simply going to the youth centre,” said a Mureti learner, Anna Thomas. Since the inception of the club a year and half ago, most learners have joined the club that is aimed at equipping them with self-esteem on social issues such as health, justice and even HIV/AIDS, among other critical topics. The club is the brainchild of a former Peace Corps volunteer, Linsey McGarth, who worked as a Regional Aids Committee Education (RACE) Coordinator. The club has no membership fees attached to it but, at least according to those in the discipline, it is worthwhile. “I did not pay anything when I joined the club, but the benefits and knowledge attained is beneficial and helpful enough,” said Saara Kandjala, a member of the club. The club is today chaired by two female volunteers, Coppelia Tarantal of the Peace Corps and attached to the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, and Victoria Sykes of Ombetja Yehinga Organization, of Voluntary Overseas Services (VSO). “Though we have limited resources, I know the club is essential because we are working with the girls on topics that they have chosen themselves. Therefore, it is by the girls for the girls, which is fabulous,” said Tarantal. Sykes added: “We are teaching them about global education issues, which we feel is something that will broaden their horizons and help them throughout their lives, which of course is fantastic.” The chairing duo says they hope the messages that they are sharing with the members will be put to good use in the community now and in future, adding that they hope the number will rise to the top in future compared to only 16 registered members at present in a town that houses hundreds of young girls eligible to join the club. According to the presiding duo, one of the ideas from the group was to have an “international cooking day” so that members would be able to learn about different cultures and try some new recipes from around the world. “Because we operate without any funding, I spoke to friends and families in the USA who liked the idea and kindly donated N$500 for us to conduct the activity,” said Tarantal. “All the girls were very excited. We decided to cook Indian and Mexican delicacies because I have visited India and Coppelia lives very close to Mexico,” said Sykes. The so-called ‘international cooking day’ was celebrated recently with the registered members on October 7. It was the first of its kind since the club’s inception, which was a great opportunity for the girls to experience different cultures and to have fun on a Saturday afternoon, according to the duo. “We cooked much more than anticipated and the girls were able to take some of the leftover food home, which was lovely!” said Sykes. During the celebration of the day, according to Sykes and Tarantal, the group saw a small group of community members mainly men, who had given up their free time to repair a then broken water pipeline in Otuzemba location. The group having noticed the men were thirsty and working on empty stomachs, then decided to share the remaining food with the workers in an effort to support the local community. “It was great for the girls because the workers were very grateful for the support,” said Sykes. Tarantal added: “It was touching because when we presented the food to the workers, we told them that it would taste completely different from what they are accustomed to but one of the workers replied: ‘If the food was bought in Namibia, cooked in Namibia, and eaten by Namibians then it is Namibian!'” Sykes and Tarantal are appealing to the Opuwo young girls who can spare time on a Friday afternoon to join the club.