Last Friday was a memorable day for the United Nations and 700 female learners at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Katutura, Windhoek.
After one month and 12 outreaches, the ‘Prosperous Paths: Leading in Vocation’ programme surpassed its target of educating 5 000 girls on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Exactly one month before – on June 29 – Kiki Gbeho, the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) in Namibia launched Prosperous Paths at Jakob Marengo Tutorial College. Not only did Gbeho share her personal story of hard work and success with over 600 female learners, she also spread amessage of self-empowerment and self-determination to the enthusiastic crowd.
UNFPA Namibia’s Dennia Gayle and UNIC Windhoek’s Anthea Basson have spoken to girls across the capital city about the importance of striving to achieve Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
With each Prosperous Paths presentation, the number of empowered young girls increased and the power of such a programme to foster change and promote women’s agency became ever more evident throughout the course of last month.
In celebration of this, the UN in Namibia hosted a special ceremony at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School. Starting off the day, Namibian saxophonist Suzy Eises, guitarist and singer Black Velvet and singer Slickartie opened the event with a musical repertoire of latest chart topping songs, fusing jazz music into the performance.
The young female crowd enthusiastically sang along, applauding and cheering.
The excitement rose even further, as Suzy took the audience on a journey through her personal experience, as well as the challenges she faced as a female musician in Namibia.
Emphasising the importance of hard work, Suzy motivated the crowd and encouraged the girls to dream big, stand up for one another and make their voices heard. Suzy’s inspiring story and testimony offered a perfect transition to the keynote address by Gbeho, who engaged the audience in an open dialogue on gender issues in Namibia.
She explained the UN’s concrete action plans in combating gender injustice and listened to suggestions from the girls on how to tackle these inequalities to bring about change.
One core topic addressed was the high dropout rate of female learners and its relation to teenage pregnancy and juvenile labour. The audience was alarmed, as the UNRC explained that about 10 000 students quit school every year and confronted them with other statistics regarding female learners dropping out.
According to the statistics provided by the Education Management Information System (EMIS), a major cause of the high dropout rates among female learners is pregnancy, which caused 2 896 girls (and involved boys) to prematurely leave school in 2011 and 2012.
Astonished by this fact, the girls openly shared their opinions on how to jointly tackle this predicament, and most importantly, emphasised the importance of encouraging fellow female students to continue with academics, even if they fall pregnant both, for their own good and that of their child.
Among other solutions proposed, one girl passionately encouraged the crowd to, “Stand side by side and form a female alliance [at] the school”. She said, “Instead of bringing each other down. Girls should learn to value and respect one another, because together we are strong!”
At the end of the Prosperous Paths outreach session, Suzy, Slickartie and Black Velvet played a few more songs before a photo was taken to celebrate the achievement of educating and empowering 5 000 learners.
The UN in Namibia will continue its service to the girl-child in Namibia by launching a follow-up campaign as part of the Prosperous Paths outreach programme in November. The campaign provides female youth with the opportunity to work with UN staff in reaching out to other young learners and jointly empowering them to be confident, independent and courageous.
The UN is optimistic that with the assistance of these bright and passionate girls, gender equality can and will be achieved for every Namibian woman and that all women will be able to bring about positive change.