The appointment of the Namibian First Lady, Monica Geingos, as the UNAIDS’ Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls is a feather in the Namibian cap.
This is an act of international recognition for what Madam Geingos set out to do locally on her very first day when she passed through the gates into State House in Windhoek’s hilly area of Auasblick.
With a clearly articulated agenda of advocating for equal opportunities within the Namibian economy, she went into action. She opted for a practical approach as opposed to ‘pulpit preaching’ approach.
She set up the One Economy Foundation charity to, quite boldly, equip Namibian youth and underprivileged people with tools that would, eventually, enable them to fully participate in the Namibian economy. Within months the Foundation was assisting a number of young people to reach their goals.
She declared that when she – God forbid – is no more, a share of her wealth is to be given to the Foundation to enable it to continue helping Namibians become active participants in the mainstream economy.
Now, as Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls for UNAIDS Madam Geingos would champion the newly launched Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free agenda. Her advocacy work for social justice is now at pitched at continental and global scale.
It is no secret that Namibia is struggling with high poverty levels, or that it is home to a population hugely divided, and unevenly so, with a large portion of the population falling in the category of those who have absolutely no means to tap into the economic yields that the country has enjoyed for the last 26 years of independence, which was marked significant economic growth.
Very few of the Namibian population are able to count or quantify the impact of economic dividends on their livelihood. While the statistics have been very good for Namibia, in terms of economic sectorial performance and other economic indices that the world tend to look at as measures of prosperity, the actual facts on the ground are not reflective of that optimism.
The country has not registered significant numbers in employment creation, especially among young people. Neither can the country really show, as with case studies, the number of indigenous people who have been able to comfortably climb aboard such economic growth as fully fledged entrepreneurs able to employ others.
In NGO parlance, Namibia’s glowing indicative indices do not reflect economic growth that has been sustainable and inclusive of its citizens.
Namibia’s task is now to look at how best to bring about sustainable growth and a truly inclusive economy, in which skills imparted translate into new innovations, create new supporting industries for young entrepreneurs to thrive and create meaningful employment.
A critical retrospective is also required for Namibia to understand that economic growth in itself is no longer sufficient. It should be peppered with a deep-seated desire to bring about social justice in our society.
Only then could we – as Madam Geingos has clearly done with One Economy Foundation and the decision to bequeath of her assets to the Foundation – ensure that economic dividends be equally shared across the entire breadth and width of Namibia for all to enjoy.