Emma Theofelus, information deputy minister, scooped the 2022 UN Population Award yesterday in a virtual ceremony for her work, advocating for women’s empowerment and adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Namibia.
Each year, the Committee for the United Nations Population Award honours an individual and/or institution in recognition of outstanding contributions to population and reproductive health issues and solutions.
The award was established by the General Assembly in 1981, in resolution 36/201, and was first presented in 1983.
It consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a monetary prize.
Theofelus yesterday said, "it is such an honour to be recognised at such an international level. A truly humbling experience. It’s a recognition I didn’t expect but also one I do not take lightly. I appreciate the support of all the people and institutions that have brought me to this point and made it possible for me to win this prestigious population award and grateful that I could be recognised in this way."
The committee is composed of 10 UN Member States, with the United Nations secretary general and UNFPA executive director serving as ex-officio members.
Nominations for the award are accepted through 31 December of each year.
UNFPA serves as its secretariat.
She was a member of AfriYAN, a regional youth-led organisation, where she led inventive efforts to fight teen pregnancy and protect young people’s sexual and reproductive health.
Theofelus, among other ventures, also advocated for the finance minister’s announcement to scrap VAT on sanitary products to enhance affordability.
“Now more than ever, stakeholders in government, civil society and pressure groups need to collaborate to see how we can realise free sanitary pads sooner than later,” Theofelus told this publication last year.
She added: “My view is that accessibility of these sanitary pads will improve – whether personally acquired by women and girls or done so by third parties to assist women and girls. That’s the progress I would rather see and appreciate, and I am under the impression that women and girls from all socio-economic backgrounds feel the same”.
The institution laureate is the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) from Indonesia, a non-ministerial government agency that formulates national policies, implements family planning initiatives and mentors experts in the field of population dynamics.
BKKBN has been recognised as a shining example of successful, innovative and rights-based family planning initiatives in Indonesia, which continued during Covid-19.
The board has trained population experts, engaged with non-governmental and faith-based organisations on population issues, and developed programmes to assist families caring for older persons.
It also played a leading role in advocating against harmful practices, helping to raise the minimum age for marriage for girls from 16 to 19 in 2019.
Theofelus is the youngest Namibian to be appointed as a deputy minister, and one of the youngest members of the Namibian parliament.
She is 26-years-old.