MANY describe her as a woman of substance and a human rights activist. She has made self-less contribution towards the lives of many, both young and old. That is Rosa Namises (RN), the Director of Woman Solidarity Namibia and Founder of Dolam Residential Child Care, where she is considered as a mother to 21 vulnerable children.
At the tender age of 15, Namises played a heroic role in the liberation struggle of Namibia. Confidénte caught up with the out-spoken Namises, who to this day continues to air her views on human rights matters, especially on women, children, gender and violence.
Confidénte: What should come to mind when we hear the name Rosa Namises. Who is she?
RN: I am just a simple human being who has come to understand and appreciate life as well not take people for granted especially children and the elderly. I am a person who is fearless and love challenges.
Confidénte: Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up and how has that contributed to who you are today and what you do?
RN: Born by an Angolan father and Damara mother, I am a child born in the Old Location(in Windhoek), which is very important to me and many people do not know that. I was born under a tree near the river !Arexab!nab (known as Arebusch) in Windhoek. My influence comes from my father. I was brought up by him. In his household, I was brought up as a child and not a girl. He is my role model and I have seen him doing all activities around the house from cooking to cleaning. He moulded the woman and mother that I am today. He provided me with morals in society, hence when I am criticised, it’s really never difficult for me to accept. I grew up being nurtured by not only my father but my community as well. Every woman and man in my society was my parent. I was disciplined by all of them and that has helped me to withstand peer pressure; I knew my limits with friends and I never consumed alcohol nor have I smoked. Because of that background, I maintained that total sense of responsibility even when I was far from home.
Confidénte: Tell us about your education. Where and what did you study?
RN: I went to Augustineum (Secondary School in Windhoek) but because of the uprising, I couldn’t continue with my studies. I then joined Sukses College (via correspondence) when I was a nursing assistant and completed my matric. I joined politics, so there was no more studying until after Independence in 1990. In 1996, I enrolled at UNISA and attained a diploma in Adult and Basic Education. I then proceeded to London University where I attained a diploma in Gender Development and Planning. All these improved me as a person because all I have been doing is working towards the country’s independence and nursing my siblings and children. I also attained a diploma in Sweden, having studied towards a diploma in Women in Management. That education was my “me time”.
Somewhere, along the line I also did a Paralegal course that better helped me acquaint myself with legal issues. Besides that, I have gone for counselling training; training for transformation in South Africa; personal growth as well as facilitation skills which added value to the Rosa Namises package.
Confidénte: You are a caregiver to orphans/vulnerable children. How many are under your care to date?
RN: There are currently 21 children at the Dolam Residential Child Care. These are children in difficult circumstances, orphans and vulnerable children.
Confidénte: What is it that you offer the children?
RN: A sense of belonging, love and space to grow into whatever they want to be. I offer guidance, with my motto being education. None of them stay here without going to school. Education is the key. I also offer them social orientation life skills such as tasks that they do around the house. It is a trend, a routine and they learn to coordinate. We have managed to instil that sense of responsibility and it is fulfilling to see when they carry out such activities that we have taught them. It is, however, difficult to instil confidence in them because of their experiences outside the walls of the centre.
Confidénte: Tell us a moment when you knew the work you’re doing was making a difference?
RN: I have a 17 year-old niece. She is another Rosa Namises in the making. It is unbelievable how she is the youngest person I have influenced.
Confidénte: Surely it must be difficult meeting the emotional and physical needs of the children. How do you do it?
RN: One good thing I have had in my life is exposure. My mom passed on in 1977 when I was 21 years old, so as nine siblings, we were left alone. Being the eldest I had to care for them. I use that experience and for me it is doing the same thing all over again. I am just a mother to them.
Confidénte: What are some of the challenges you face?
RN: Resources, resources, resources. The running cost; ensuring that there is food and that staff members are paid. Space is another challenge. The centre is small and the children are growing into teenagers. They are only allowed to stay until they are 18 years old, unless they are in school and then they are reintegrated into their families. As people working with children, it has proven to be difficult raising them because they are growing up in modern times. It’s a matter of understanding them and their rights because we were exposed to our own upbringing.
Confidénte: What is and can the Government and the public do to help?
RN: We need to strengthen our relationship and continue to build the network in which we can discuss and improve the lives of our children. The Government also has to pass the Child Protection and Care Bill that is long overdue to enhance and improve their lives. It is important that social workers are deployed to make children re-integration with families easier.
As for the community, we need to reduce the negativity around neighbourhoods, the noise pollution and be more sensitive to the children’s education by giving them that peace to study, for instance. We also need to contribute to their safety, hence less violence at homes is much needed. We should also strive to reduce alcohol abuse and be more caring to build a society with quality for our children. It’s equally important that the community show interest in the children, devoting time to inter-act with them. That in itself will make a huge contribution towards their lives.
Confidénte: What else have you done to help further your cause?
RN: Besides working with my children, I am the Director of Women Solidarity Namibia. We work against violence towards women and children. Being good at initiating things and creating ideas, my team and I have managed to highlight awareness on violence against women. We do not put up with it and have further marched, advocated and lobbied against such activities in society. I can pat myself on the back for having lobbied for ARVs and different human right laws. I also help the elderly by extending support and providing food parcels and clothing. On Christmas day I make sure that we have a party together and juts make them feel special.
Confidénte: What do you want the world to know about your cause?
RN: I don’t think they should know. It is something I do from the bottom of my heart. I do a lot within the community but I don’t want it to be known.
Confidénte: Why are you so passionate about what you do and not something else like world hunger?
RN: I have come to realise that not having so much wealth but a loving and caring family meant so much for me. I am just expressing something I felt through my life; the protection, the love and the care that I received.
Confidénte: Who or what inspires you? Who is your mentor?
RN: My parents. They inspired me and I am carrying their legacy. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are two men that I admire. In general, what life presents is my mentor.
Confidénte: You do a whole lot of different works, where does your heart lie?
RN: The well-being of women and children. That is my thing!
Confidénte: You are known as a woman with substance. What does that mean?
RN: Who am I to be given that? In such words lie the thank you through what I do. I am humbled. You do not have to be paid for such work, it comes with time.
Confidénte: What does the future hold for you?
RN: In 20 years’ time, I will be 70 years old. I am at a stage where I am recognising and preparing myself for retirement. I am teaching myself to do things at a slower pace. I am also working on strengthening the succession plan in my immediate house, the children home and the community. It is important that before I go, I leave people to continue doing the work, to take interest in working against violence. As I grow older, I am planning on writing a book and tell my story. I so much want to write to my parents telling them what happened after they passed on.
Confidénte: How do you relax after a long day at work?
RN: Oh, I dance (laughs). I love music. I dance and sing with my grand-children. Besides that, I like to drive through the desert and just spent time there. I also enjoy spending time with my sister on her farm. It is very quiet out there. I also love theatre.
Confidénte: How do you juggle family and work life?
RN: We have times together on key days such as birthdays and Christmas parties. But we make sure that we spent time together at least once every month.
Confidénte: What is your view regarding the cause of passion killing and what can be done to put an end to it?
RN: We need to understand that there is no passion in killing. The only passion is within a person, their power and ego. The other person is just brutally humiliated, disrespected and killed. Men in this country need to do a self-introspect so that they differentiate between wants and needs and that of others. They need to start unpacking their weaknesses, lack of self-esteem and confidence and the misunderstanding of their powers.
As long as men do not come to terms and facts of rights of other human beings, we cannot solve these barbaric actions. If they willingly enter into anger management, personal growth programmes and participate in awareness raising programmes to be better to themselves and their loved ones, then we can go somewhere. As much as we live together, we need to accept each other and work together. That trend can help us become sensitive about what happens when you force yourself onto the next person. We need to learn to listen, to ask instead of demanding, it’s those small sensitivities that will help us reduce and eventually end the violence.
By Marianne Nghidengwa
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015