A continent loses a mighty warrior

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A continent loses a mighty warrior

I was just 13 years old when I had this idea that seemed silly to many people. What was this idea, anyway? Well, it was to teach unemployed young women and older girls across Africa and the Caribbean who had dropped out of school a skill that was relevant in our world today. 

And what was that skill – a basic film-making class. Perhaps you are now thinking the same thing that those adults thought some eight years ago, that how could a 13-year-old girl, with no formal film-making education, just burst out and start teaching others film-making? What an audacity, some thought.

Lesson number one, never share your dreams with those who can’t see it. Just ask Joseph – right!

When I was nine, I had entered a school story competition for 11 to 17-year-olds, sponsored by the history channel here in California, to document a historic event anywhere that was revolutionary. I chose the Ghana revolution of 1979, because it was the best-documented revolution I could find, and the person who led it – president Jerry Rawlings, was still alive. How good was that? 

So, I went to Ghana to meet him for my short film, which I had to shoot, edit and ‘music’ score myself, as per the rules.

That is how my film-making journey began.

In Namibia, I had 25 students in that creative session in February 2016, and we went through a basic film-making class I had created a curriculum on. Namibia TV was there, and so was The Namibian newspaper, because they all wanted to see what this 13-year-old girl was doing.  I too wanted to see it, you know. The next day, I didn’t know my project made the newspapers, until our phone in the hotel rang. My dad [he always travels with me] answered it, and it was some deputy commissioner of police. It turned out that President Hage Geingob had read the papers that morning, learned about my film class for unemployed girls in his country, and wanted to meet me. So, they traced us to our hotel. Lesson number two – Always do good, in other people’s countries. President Geingob welcomed me to State House the next day very, very warmly, shook my hand, and thanked me for thinking about the girls of his country to pilot my film-making class. We talked about the opportunity challenges girls face, and how he thought I could be a great example for girls in the region, because they looked like me. 

I was back in the country three more times over seven years after that, working also with their very kind and lovely First Lady Monica Geingos twice, on new gender initiatives.

Sadly, on the morning of Sunday 4 February 2024, my very friend president Hage Geingob passed away in Windhoek. 

He was 82–years-old. 

I am truly saddened. But it brings to the reality again that we all are on a journey, passing through. 

So please, let us empty ourselves of every good we can do, and take nothing but emptiness with us, because our time is always shorter than we think. It’s hard to imagine, but it is true that once upon a time, president Geingob was just a four- year-old boy.

So, time truly passes by.

I cherish the lessons you taught me, and the example of the power of unification and regional leadership you were. You were a mentor to many younger African presidents and prime ministers too. This is where I proudly trumpet your groundbreaking legacy. 

In 2022, Namibia, under your leadership, became the first African country, ahead of South Africa and other continental leaders, to agree to supply the European Union with green hydrogen and green minerals, actions and feats which are the bedrock of the renewable and sustainability climate we all live in today. This, is how leadership and vision, is catalogued. Good night, president Geingob. 

Namibians and the African Union as a whole would absolutely miss your towering presence, your wise cracks, your wisdom, and your (deep voice) of re-assurance. 

I would too.


*Zuriel Oduwole is an American education advocate and filmmaker best- known for her works on the advocacy for the education of girls in Africa.