By Petronella Sibeene
Hundreds of Namibian women from all sectors of society on Monday night left a gala dinner, hosted for visiting Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at a local resort, acknowledging that the notion that women cannot excel in society is a “myth.”
At the gala dinner held in honour of the Liberian President, all those that could be referred to as powerful and influential women of Namibia came out in numbers to draw inspiration from the first African female President.
Among the over 250 women in attendance were the First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba, the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo-Nandi Ndaitwah, and the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Marlene Mungunda.
Several female deputy ministers, businesswomen, female heads of UN agencies and female ambassadors were also present.
“I am excited to be here. We are proud that the first female African President is visiting us. As women, we are inspired by her vision for her country. We sometimes find ourselves (women) in hopeless situations, but we need a dynamic woman like her to inspire us,” commented the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo.
Deputy Prime Minister Amathila showered the Liberian President with praise, saying she is a living “testimony that women are capable and for those aspiring to be whatever in society, the sky is the limit”.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Sirkka Ausiku said President Johnson-Sirleaf’s courage to take up the reins in a war-torn country inspires all women.
“The bold courage she has to take up a challenge, taking up a country once war-torn and starting with the rebuilding process, simply gives us the courage that we can face anything as women,” Ausiku added.
In her address to Namibian women, President Johnson-Sirleaf briefly gave a picture of the days of war in Liberia and how she worked to emerge as President.
She said that at the time Namibia gained its independence, Liberia was entering a tragic period, which she also described as ” the days of darkness”.
The women of Liberia like in any other wars were the most affected by the civil strife.
“They were taken as sex slaves while others had to forage for food for their children. These women proved resilient,” she said.
During the election campaign in 2005, the Liberian President said, in the first round 13 candidates contested for the presidency. The number was later reduced to two. She contested against international soccer star George Weah.
His position made one think his influential position as a soccer star would win him the support of the youth in the country, hence the need for his contender to work extra hard.
“But they missed one thing; the power of women,” she said to the ululation of women at the event.
After claiming victory and making history on the continent, President Johnson-Sirleaf said the challenge began to transform a once fallen state.
“All what it takes to rebuild, it is not easy, but my responsibility is to take this nation to a proper footing,” she confidently stated.
As a woman leader, she equally appointed women in strategic positions as the country seriously engaged in reconstruction of the infrastructure and the economy.
The “Iron Lady” who by the way said the name is “just not for foolishness” appointed female ministers in the key ministries of Finance, Justice, Youth, and as the Inspector General of the Police.
She reported that progress has been made rebuilding Liberia although challenges remain in the areas of security and lack of skills, given the high unemployment rate especially among the youth.
Corruption is also another irking problem but many government officials are in court to account for their actions, she confirmed.
“As female President, I represent the aspirations of all the women and I will speak against all the injustices,” she said.