OFFICE OF THE FIRST LADY
The Office of the First Lady considers itself a bridge builder and it is within this context that our programmes have been streamlined to create opportunities for those who would otherwise not have access. Our secondary objective is to change systems for the benefit of targeted populations, especially women, youth and rural populations.
ENTREPRENUERSHIP & ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT
In the quest to build bridges of economic opportunity between the first and second economy, the OFL, through the One Economy Foundation, embarked on the implementation of a Collateral Free Lending programme aimed at empowering entrepreneurs who have potential to scale up their businesses but lack the requisite capital, confidence and capacity to do so. The Fund is aimed at easing the restrictive and difficult means of obtaining a loan to entrepreneurs who operate in the second economy. These loans will be offered to micro and macro entrepreneurs and full implementation is anticipated in the 2017/2018 financial year.
Early Childhood Development (ECD)
The OFL has identified support for integrated early childhood development as a critical area for bringing about systemic change in the education sector. Inequality in access to educational opportunities perpetuates the poverty cycle. In collaboration with the University of Namibia and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the OFL commissioned a needs assessment in 32 vulnerable Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in eight of Namibia’s fourteen regions. The study which builds on the existing knowledge on the status of ECD in Namibia, identified qualitative and structural gaps in the provision of ECD services and recommends areas for intervention by the OFL and other stakeholders.
Talented Individual Programme
To further support our work in creating access to opportunities in the education sector, we developed an educational fellowship programme known as the Talented Individual Programme (TIP). Twenty-five learners were selected from fourteen regions in 2016 to commence Grade 8 at three schools namely the Windhoek High School, the Windhoek Gymnasium Private School and the St. Boniface College (Sambyu-Rundu). The learners underwent a competitive selection process and all met the criteria of being highly talented but displaying the most need. The aim is to provide the learners with equal access to educational opportunities enabling them to break the poverty cycle and aiding their development. The fellowship focuses on holistic development and therefore seeks to develop character of each beneficiary. Beyond the payment of school fees, learners also receive psycho-socio support and access to a multidisciplinary support team which is comprised of a combination of in-house experts as well as external support.
GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)
- Gender Based violence (GBV) and violence against children is a major concern in the country. In line with national efforts to fight GBV, our Office has taken the approach of working with various stakeholders and developing smart partnerships to ensure that our programmes focus on both the prevention of and response towards GBV. The OFL works with partners to create awareness about GBV, to promote and strengthen access to multi-disciplinary support within the system as well as to influence the strengthening of a robust legislative framework which supports survivors of GBV.
- Our GBV initiatives have a two pronged approach of working with both survivors as well as perpetrators of GBV. To this extent, male engagement has been a critical factor, most especially through our collaboration with the Namibian Correctional Services. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed with the NCS in November 2016 to govern the exchange of research and general collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
- Thus far, the pillar has witnessed great milestones with the Office being involved in case management, training of trainers for efficient service delivery, offering material support and engagements.
- Using key speaking platforms to highlight issues related to gender based violence; inequality; cultural harmful practices perpetuating GBV; cyber bullying and child online protection; HIV/AIDS; sexual reproductive health and rights child sexual abuse; working with perpetrators; fatherlessness; substance abuse; intergenerational sex; early marriages and violence in general.
- Collaboration with the private sector through the donation of nutritional, financial and material support to approximately 2500 community members in dire need of school uniform, toiletries and stationery. Recipients included children in hospitals, survivors of GBV in shelters, perpetrators in Namibia Correctional Facilities, single parent households, orphans and vulnerable children in care centres in informal settlements or rural homes across the country.
- Distribution of 90 sewing machines to individuals and groups who struggle to meet their basic needs as well as female offenders in the Windhoek and Walvis Bay Correctional Facilities.
- The focus of our health pillar is to advocate for and promote access to quality maternal and child health care services, particularly in rural and/or economically disadvantaged communities. This pillar also enables us to provide institutional support to the health sector as well as to work with grassroots based organisations in the attainment of their objectives. Our strategic actions take the form of complementing or providing support to existing programmes under embarked on by the ministry of Health and Social Services or our respective development partners in the areas of:
- Improving maternal and child health including education on sexual reproductive health to prevent of teenage and crisis pregnancies;
- Advocacy support for communicable and non-communicable diseases with a specific focus on HIV/AIDS and reproductive cancers;
- Timely access to reproductive healthcare and education services, particularly to the youth; and
- Advocacy on lifestyle issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, which degrade our social capital.
As the UNAIDS Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls, the First Lady is tasked with the responsibility of championing the Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free Agenda which seeks to end AIDS as an epidemic among children, adolescents and young women by 2020.
It is within this context that the #BeFree Movement was launched in November 2016 in collaboration with UNFPA and UNAIDS. While HIV remains a focal point, the intention of #BeFree is to create a non-judgemental, inclusive platform which encourages honest and robust dialogue and information sharing on issues which hold young people back from reaching their potential.
Due to its popularity and demand for an open dialogue between parents and the youth, it was proposed that the #BeFree movement be launched in all 14 regions in the country. We also intend to use the #BeFree model to engage youth on international visits.
#BeFree has taught the office that it is important to include youth in discussions which affect them, but most importantly, to trust the solutions they propose.
INSTITUTIONAL & STRATEGIC SUPPORT
The OFL recognises that we have limitations in carrying out our work. For this reason, the Office continually strives to work with Line Ministries and other stakeholders who already operate in the areas we seek to bring about change in. This enables us to avoid a duplication of resources and work more optimally towards the attainment of our goals.
Institutions that we have collaborated strongly with include:
- Ministry of Health and Social Services
- Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture
- Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare
- Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia
- Monica Geingos Junior Secondary School
- Financial Literacy Initiative
- Namibia Correctional Service
- Namibia Association of Planned Parenthood