By Beth Phillips
Touching a Cobra, watching a lion on the prowl, holding a balloon between your legs are just some of the experiences encountered by the Fredrich Awaseb and Grootfontein Girls’ clubs joint visit to Etosha National Park recently.
Did you know in Oshiwambo, Etosha is known as Etotha, meaning “open area of water?” We didn’t. This information and much more we learned while visiting Namutoni this past July. For most of us Girls Club members, it was our first time to visit Etosha. Each of the girls wrote about their experiences, and as Melanie wrote: “I felt overjoyed, excited because it was my first time to see the beautiful Etosha people had told me about.”
Upon arriving the girls went on a game drive where they saw animals such as oryx, cobra, Damara dik-dik, leopard, lion, and so many more big and beautiful animals. Not only did the girls see animals, they also got personal with some local reptiles chilling around the park.
“Before getting to the park, we made a turn at Mokuti Lodge Reptile Park. We went to see snakes, big ones, small ones, and all kinds. Some girls – the brave ones – also touched them.”
These experiences – viewing, holding, and learning about Namibia’s ecosystem and wildlife – were not just kept for the weekend, however. Each of the girl’s understanding of the environment and people’s role in either its destruction or sustainability was enriched by their trip.
“We, the humans, can take good care of our animals and environment without hunting and littering the environment and killing animals,” was Veronica’s observation.
As Diana, the chairperson of the Girls Club, eloquently explains “with this knowledge we will get wiser and so the environment will not be damaged or in danger and will support future generations.”
Not only did the girls see and learn about the diversity of Namibian wildlife, they also gained knowledge on team-building skills and HIV/AIDS Awareness.
Patience, a student, notes that “this trip to Etosha taught me many things, some not about the environment, but on how to communicate with your friends and how to work in a group of people together, cooperating, like a team.”
The learners were led in several teambuilding and HIV/AIDS activities. The girls worked together, as teams, to accomplish the games’ objectives and win the events. In one of the more funny games, the girls, divided into four teams, had to carry a water balloon between their legs from one end of the field and return back to their teams, where they passed the balloon off to another teammate. Remarkably, only two balloons burst. With so many leftover balloons the girls decided, as Diane recalls:
“We could not just leave the balloons, so we grabbed them and chased after the losers, and got them good and wet!”
Don’t be fooled though. Fun, game drives and games were not all that occupied the Grootfontein Girls Clubs’ time at Etosha. They also watched an important movie, ‘You Wake Me Up!,’ a film about southern African women’s particular vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
After the eye-opening showing Diana and Yvonne led a very fruitful discussion on the disturbing fact: Young women in Namibia are TWICE as likely to contract HIV/AIDS as their male peers.
Why, you may ask? Because they are at risk biologically, culturally, and economically. As Ester claimed in her report: “I would like to share with you guys out there more. We girls are treated unfairly and this must change.”
Zoey similarly wrote: “I learned so much more about how to protect myself and why we girls are more at risk. We need to save our lives for my generation that is coming and the ones that will come if we start to act serious now.”
So if you want to hear more from the Grootfontein Girls Club come and visit us any Wednesday afternoon at the Community Hall in Omulunga.
After their weekend in Etosha, the Girls Club members left ready to challenge our society’s beliefs and structures that discriminate against women, along with the cultural and economic practices that damage the environment.