EUNICE Iipinge is the lady of the moment as newly elected secretary of the Swapo Party Women Council (SPWC) with a term of five years.
Iipinge emerged victorious at the recently held SPWC congress in Keetmanshoop beating former deputy minister of health Petrina Haingura with an impressive 249 votes. Haingura got 223 votes while Sylvia Kandanga-Sheetekela came third with 81 votes.
This is the second time Iipinge gets to be in charge of the ruling Swapo party women’s wing that she successfully help set-up in 1989 upon return on home soil from The Hague, Netherlands where she obtained a Master’s degree in development studies with a specialisation in women development.
Iipinge was first elected SPWC secretary in 2001 but lost her position to Haingura in 2006 at a congress in Rundu. With her comeback, Iipinge vowed to work hard to rebuild the women’s council to its former glory that has in recent times been marred in controversy.
In an interview with Confidente Tuesday, Iipinge who is renowned for having vigorously promoted women affairs in the party within and outside the country, shared her plans as the new SPWC secretary including her immediate response to aide underprivileged school-going girls with sanitary pads, political career, and juggling her roles as a professional and family woman.
Iipinge was born at Ongenga in the Ohangwena region in 1950. She grew up in a village called Ohakweenyanga and completed her primary education at Ongenga. At 17, Iipinge started secondary school and at 21 completed her studies in Ongwediva. She joined Swapo in 1971.
She left the country for exile in 1975, joining thousands of other Namibians in pursuit of the country’s liberation from the then South African colonial regime. She received military training that same year when she arrived at Kashapa camp, Angola.
She continued her military training at Oshatotwa, Zambia where she also started working as a logistic officer at Oshatotwa number 2. In 1977 to 1980, Iipinge completed studies at the United Nations Institue for Namibia (UNIN), obtaining a diploma in management and development studies.
Between 1981 and 1986, Iipinge taught at the Greenwell Matongo education centre and served as a passport officer at Swapo headquarters in Luanda, Angola. She also worked as a senior administrator for Swapo Elders Council and at the same time was the chairperson of Swapo Women’s council in Luanda. She also represented the party at international platforms including AAPSO in the Soviet Union and the Nelson Mandela Freedom march from Glasgow to London, covering a 500 miles walk in Britain.
During her dissertation for her Master’s Degree, Iipinge developed a passion for women issues in Namibia, especially the disadvantaged. She managed to establish relations with other int e rnational women organisations and became the SPWC assistant secretary for social welfare and legal affairs.
She also helped establish the SWPC structures across the country. While in that role, she was responsible for setting up the Namibia National Women’s Organisation (NANAWO). Between 1992 and 1995, she worked as a national programme officer for the United Nations Development Fund (UNIFEM) and managed to pioneer the establishment of a gender training and research program at the University of Namibia.
SPWC secretary role
A beaming Iipinge said that the reality of her new role has not sunk in yet but quickly pointed out that the role is not hers alone but that of the women within the party who voted for her. “I am overwhelmed by the confidence they have in me and the task I’m expected to do. That is what I am thinking about right now, and together we will do it. What they saw in me only they know. I am here at their disposal.”
Iipinge adds that as SPWC secretary, she will implement the congress’ resolutions as well as strengthen the women council for the development of the council, its women and the Swapo party at large.
“When women understand politics, the party’s interests are pushed and it will become a party to be reckoned with for now and the future generations to come. If we work hard to strengthen our party, we will be able to use it as a tool to advance the interests of the party, the Government and for the well-being of women and children.”
She explains that there is a need for the women council to develop gender analysis skills to analyse gender issues in various sectors.
“I think that is why as women we are not benefitting in most male dominated fields because we cannot demand without knowing.
The resolutions of the congress are there but their implementation depends on the awareness of women’s position in society. The attitude of looking at women as minors or second-class citizens is breaking their advancement.
“We have 50/50 policy but that is quantity. We need to look at quality. That myth that women cannot lead is broken. We will analyse issues deeper. There is a lot to be done, we laid a foundation which now needs to be strengthened.”
On top of her duties, Iipinge has vowed to help provide underprivileged school-going girls with sanitary pads. Her devotion Iipinge says is drawn from the way young women lived in isolation while on their periods in exile camps. “I remember girls would live in isolation in huts sometimes for up to a week. Because of lack of resources in camps at the time, they slept on hay and dug a hole where their blood would drip in. They had no clothes, they covered themselves with leaves. Women in the camp would take them food because they could not move. This project is close to my heart for I know what schoolgirls go through.”
In addition to being SPWC secretary, Iipinge holds various other titles including deputy chairperson of Swapo party school board of directors as well as chairperson of trustee for Swapo party archive and research centre. Above all, she is a mother, grandmother and mother-in-law.
Asked how she juggles her roles, Iipinge explained that as a former freedom fighter, juggling her roles comes easily.
“In exile there weren’t gender roles, we performed any role and dedicated our lives to the cause of freedom. The nation then and today still comes first and my family was convinced of that cause so I had a strong support system. My husband and children understood. I managed to combine my roles but it took hard work, commitment and dedication. Sometimes I hardly sleep but I do spend quality time with my family and friends, giving them the little I have.”
Iipinge also advised women to develop themselves with education in order to make a meaningful contribution to the country. “Education is key. You get good jobs and you command your resources. Know your position in society and be an agent for someone’s development. Find your space and defend it.”
Asked what she does for a little fun, Iipinge said that she writes. “I write a lot, I’ve written a lot of books. I conduct trainings, giving people what I know. I also spend quality time with my family, we socialise at various family gatherings. I have children, grandchildren, sons and daughters-in-law so I spend time with them.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015