• July 6th, 2020

‘It’s hard being a woman in Namibia’



International Women’s Day will be observed this Sunday, under the theme ‘I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”. The theme is aligned with UN women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa interviewed media personality and businesswoman Hilda Basson-Namundjebo on strides and accomplishments of women and barriers among Namibian women.

What does International Woman’s Day mean to you?
For me, every day is Women’s day because there is not a day I can resign my womanhood. The opportunities and challenges are the same every day. What the commemoration does, though, is it refocuses stakeholders and policymakers with an opportunity to look back and evaluate from where we came as a collective and to plot the way forward. Days like these mean nothing if it does not alter one’s lived experience. 

What does it mean to be a woman in 
Namibia and society you live in? 
It’s hard being a woman in Namibia, especially for black women. Look at the statistics of women who lead organisations in Namibia. We are few and far between. And when we are there, we are constantly scrutinized, and every move you make is judged as if it were a reflection of women everywhere. But I take up my space and apologise to no one for being who I am. I am God’s best idea, so why shrink back? I work hard, and I also understand I have a generational purpose – one which requires going the extra mile, one that requires a dogged tenacity and one that makes it easier for the next generation of girls to be taken seriously and not be judged more harshly than a male counterpart. 

What privileges or challenges do 
we (Namibia) stereotypically and generically face? 
Again, Namibian legislation is excellent. The policy framework is comprehensive; however, the lived experience is different. We have the second-highest number of females in parliament and, still, the Namibian girl child cannot even have sanitary protection as a legislative provision. When matters like these are presented in parliament, the very women elected are the ones who shut the debate down. We have a so-called Women’s Day that coincides with the Human Rights Day in December but there is no focus on women issues. Gender-based violence continues to soar, and despite having an excellent policy framework, victims are still shamed by the system that must protect them. We still have to tolerate sexual harassment and remain subservient; otherwise, you will be identified as disrespectful. And then the hatred that women have for each other? I was president of Namibian football the past year – who were my biggest supporters? Men! Who were my biggest detractors – women! Because we must, apparently, apply for permission to be extraordinary – and should you dare excel, boy, are the knives and tongues out for you. But it depends on who you are – what you base your identity on, etc. You were created by God and you have every right to be amazing.

Which women are you inspired by in your 
local community and globe?
I love warrior women – women with spirit and a never-say-die attitude. I remain inspired by the spirit of ordinary women who are the true heroes of their community. My mom is amazing, so I have been taught to have a lot of space for people. I have been taught to remain humble and respectful. I am inspired by other women like Aunty Joan Guriras, who stands like a rock, notwithstanding the challenges that life presents. I am generally not star-struck, so you won’t hear the big names from me. But women with compassion – women of great intellect and heart – those are my tribe.

What are the “women’s themes” 
that still need greater awareness in your opinion? 
I don’t want to be reduced to a theme. I want to play in the mainstream, and I think that is true for all women. Playing on the sidelines is dangerous, as you remain exposed. So, when we talk inclusion, let us walk inclusion. Be intentional about including everyone’s voice. Pay attention and listen. How on earth is it logical to build a home, a business or a country in a sustainable way when you listen only to half of the residents or citizens? That’s not smart. So, have gender-friendly opportunities; empower armies of women, instead of cherry-picking the ones you know or like, or the ones who sing your praises. 

What taboos, related to the 
theme of women, do you wish were broken?
Having to prove myself over and over again. Women are capable – not more than men but at times differently. Cultivate an appreciation for that and use it optimally in nation-building and business. 

Which men, who are doing their part 
for women’s equality, do you find inspirational?
I am blessed to have a lot of amazing males in my world. I am a thinker, so I need thinkers and intellectuals in my world. I have real “mouthy” boys, so they keep me on my best thinking and I don’t get away with stuff. That’s what I enjoy about men. Issues are faced head-on, dealt with and they are not personalised. I can deal with that. I find humble men very inspirational – men who do not have to shout how great they are. 

What woman’s themes are impacting 
you most greatly in your home or work?
I treat my female staff differently; I am harder on us as a collective. We have to show up consistently and excellently. Because, whether fairly or not, unto us, there is a responsibility to make life better for this current and next generation of women. So, you can’t be ‘damsels in distress’ the one minute and the next minute you want to engender respect. At the NFA, it was equality and sometimes equity because women football has been so neglected, with some of our girls having to endure being called “prostitutes” and having to show gratitude for the “privilege” of being selected. So, then a core theme becomes a winners’ mindset for those girls that ‘I am deserving of this opportunity’ and that ‘I do not have to show excessive and inappropriate gratitude towards the appointing authority for recognising me’. 

Who’s work do you admire in relation 
to women’s rights and equality?
Katherine Graham, the lady who owned Washington Post in the 1970s. I admire Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, especially for the work she has done during her tenure as tourism minister. They don’t lay claim to special privileges; they just work. I love Oprah, as most people know, for her work in media and being the underdog, and who excelled despite the odds – and I love Priscilla Shirer because she is real and courageous. And then there are women whose names I don’t know but history knows them. 

What role or impact would you like 
to play in relation to women’s rights today?
I don’t want a role as if I were a special feature. I just want to do my thing and work to make the world a better place. In anything I do, I just want to do it so well that it makes it easier for girls to dream gallantly and be amazing. 


Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
2020-03-06 08:31:07 | 4 months ago

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