British Philanthropists Give to Ovahimba

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

Two British tourists on Friday donated N$100 000 to the Ovahimba people of Opuwo for use on development projects.

Contrary to the usual trend of tourists only coming to Namibia to capture the beauty that Namibia is endowed with, the two adventurers Maurice Summers and John Campbell arrived in Namibia on Thursday inspired by an article on the Internet about the plight of the Ovahimba.

On Friday Summers, who is the Director of International Computer Purchasing Limited, and Campbell, a Director of Global Leadership Alliance Limited, handed over a cheque of N$100 000 to Women’s Action for Development (WAD) for use in activities aimed at improving the lives of the Ovahimba people.

Many people have failed to recognize the special qualities the Ovahimba people possess. Instead, they are displayed at the pleasure of photographers and tourists as cultural objects from ancient times.

According to Executive Director of WAD Veronica de Klerk, the two British adventurers heard of WAD through Werner Schultz of African Motion Tours Company.

She says the gesture presented by the two British men is clear manifestation of how goodwill and magnanimity can cross the width of oceans to reach out to marginalized people in a foreign country, in this case, Namibia.

“Although our visitors have never personally met the Ovahimba, they are fascinated by their culture and way of life, and of course are deeply touched by their marginalization in the far north-west of our country in the Kunene Region,” she said.

Summers say they wanted to find ways of making their adventure in the traditional land of the Ovahimba worthwhile. He said while some people might look at the Ovahimba as backward, they could be ahead and insightful in many things.

“The project of the Ovahimba has topped the priority than the adventure. We want to learn, understand and build relationships with people as far as development is concerned,” Summers said. The duo will also visit Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Epupa Falls, Ruacana and Opuwo.

Campbell, who has a good understanding of what working with marginalized communities is given his experience in South Africa and Botswana, said his organisation’s mission is to enable individuals to make a difference in their lives. He feels WAD exemplifies that, hence the choice to partner it in assisting the Ovahimba.

WAD will invest the amount in training unemployed Ovahimba youths since adults are too often the “slaves of inflexible traditions cast in stone”, De Klerk said.

About 173 unemployed youths will be trained in household business, contents of laws, hygiene and nutrition, computer literacy, needlework or tailoring, and bread and cake baking.

Even before receiving the money, WAD had started training youths in Opuwo already in August. Their graduation is scheduled to be held early next month where Summers and Campbell will be witnesses.

Considering that WAD’s contact with the Ovahimba dates back to 2002, De Klerk confirmed that these people live in remote areas far from the mainstream of the economic activities of the country.

The areas are sparsely populated with schools and other facilities.

The Ovahimba’s plight is made worse by the region’s proneness to drought, cultural factors, shortage of funds and historic neglect, among others.

While Government has initiated programmes aimed at uplifting the lives of such communities, there are some challenges hampering the process.

One large obstacle is that parents do not register their children at birth despite the office of the Ministry of Home Affairs being present in the region.

Lack of certificates makes it difficult for them to prove that they are Namibians and it is difficult for them to claim social pensions or apply for identification documents.

De Klerk says there is need to sensitise the Ovahimba women on their rights and make them aware of their equal status in society.

She added that Government needs developmental partners to help in uplifting the marginalized in Namibia.

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