NAEMI Patemoshela Heita was recently appointed secretary general of the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS), a position she wholeheartedly grabbed so as to plough back to her home country. Having served four years as a disaster risk management coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in South Africa, Heita is thrilled to be back home to serve the nation with her rich experience gained from the neighbouring country. Heita, who is a registered nurse by profession, has a Masters in Business Administration and Healthcare management postgraduate qualification from Regent Business School and University of Cape Town respectively. She has other international humanitarian related qualifications in Humanitarian Diplomacy and Disaster Management.In an interview with Confidente recently, Heita talked about key areas she will concentrate her energy on to better the organisation, her experience as well as spending quality time with her loved ones.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
Passionate humanitarian worker, with over 15 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development field. I have served in various technical and leadership positions at different stages of my career nationally and internationally. I served as Namibia Red Cross deputy secretary general for over three years before I took up the position of Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for Southern Africa with International Federation of the Red Cross in Pretoria. Putting a smile on the face of a vulnerable person motivates me to do more as I believe that our actions and not words can make a difference.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I was born in Engela, Ohangwena region where I spent my early childhood years, and due to war my family moved to Oshikoto region, Olukonda constituency. I lost my father when I was eight and was brought up by mother, together with my seven siblings. Like any other village girl, I mastered household chores such as pounding mahangu and fetching firewood before the age of 10. My parents cared not only for us as children but literally for the whole village and this has instilled the sharing and caring value in me. The sacrifice and commitment by my parents, making sure we had the proper upbringing and that the little resources they had were invested in our education, has shaped the person that I am today. I also draw inspiration from my late father‘s determination who sacrificed his life for the independence of our country. I can truly say making a difference in another person’s life is an incredible feeling.
Congratulations on your new appointment, how did that come about?
Thank you. First of all let me say I am humbled by the opportunity I have been given to serve my own country. I have been away from Namibia for four years, so when this opportunity came up I decided to go for it so that I can continue serving humanity using the international exper i ence I have gained t o continue growing the Namibia RC.
What five key areas will you focus your energy on in your new post?
I would like to continue strengthening partnership of Namibia Red Cross with the public authorities, private sector, UN agencies, media and the public. We aim to make the services of the national society sustainable through local support. The National Society aims to expand its services to more regions of Namibia. Finally we want to see Namibia Red Cross becoming a partner of choice when it comes to humanitarian services in the country.
How do you want to change the way Red Cross operates in terms of its public presence?
I would like to see more youth involved in the activities of the Red Cross. About half of the volunteers of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are young people. A special focus on young people is a crucial investment, not only for today but also for the future. In addition I would like to see more Namibians from all walks of life involved in the activities of the national society. It is also my dream to see more professionals becoming volunteers of the NRCS and ploughing back their expertise in supporting and shaping some of our programming, mentoring the youth and staff. Their involvement will enable us to overcome the current notion whereby most of our volunteers are drawn from our beneficiaries who are at the same time the most vulnerable in the society. The corporate sector is also an important stakeholder in the fight against poverty and protecting human dignity by supporting programmes that empower the poor and the vulnerable members of our society.
In your opinion, why do you think Africa is hardly prepared to tackle disasters and tends to seek international assistance?
In the past years the focus in many African countries has been on disaster response, however there is a notable shift from disaster response to long term resilience building programming. We are all aware of the increase in the number of disasters throughout the continent and the undeniable serious challenges caused by climate change. Time has come for Africa to step up its game in having mechanisms in place that will prepare communities and nations to be able to deal with disasters when they occur without relying too much on outside assistance. Communities have since time in memorial been able to use their traditional knowledge in dealing with some of these disasters and time has come for us to combine traditional knowledge with conventional knowledge in our quest to prepare for the challenges posed by disasters. Early warning systems must be activated at community level and the locals need to lead in ensuring that they understand the various hazards they are exposed to and how they can tackle them before they can get outside assistance. The Drought Appeal launched by SADC members for El Niño induced drought and floods in 2016 has been designed to meet both humanitarian needs and to build resilience to future disaster events, this is evidence that as a continent we are moving in the right direction.
How has working for various organisations shaped you as a woman and professional?
Working in different organisations in different portfolios has made me to realise the valuable contribution of women to the humanitarian and development of communities. Women are more affected by disasters than men because they take care of the children, the elderly, their gardens and expected to provide food for the family, which makes the impact more difficult on them after a disaster. Meaningful community empowerment will not be realised without the involvement of women and young girls.
What advice do you have for fellow women?
We can make a difference in the lives of our fellow women, let us support each other as Namibian women to realise our full potential. It is important that professional women take time to get involved in programmes that empower rural women and girls to ensure that they also contribute meaningfully to the country’s economy. I believe in the saying, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” We have so many enlightened, educated and high profile women in our society who can stand together in bringing positive change into the lives of the underprivileged women through motivational talks and capacity building projects. It is entirely up to us whether we want to make a difference and what difference we want to make in lives of other women and ours. Namibia needs us.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015