When everything is said and done, the Namibian Businesswoman of the Year title is a particularly heavy label to carry.
Over the years, the Businesswoman Awards have evolved to become the flagship project of the Economist. As such it has assumed a life and a structure of its own. To receive any of these awards is a distinguished achievement in the careers of those nominated. To be nominated is already an achievement in itself.
In total there are five awards in four categories. Three of these winners qualify as finalists for the overall grand award, the coveted Namibian Businesswoman of the Year. But to get to the point of running in the final, is not easy. The process is cumbersome and protracted, intentionally, invasive to a certain extent, intentionally, time-consuming, intentionally, and often revealing, unintentionally. Of the large batch of women nominated and who eventually accept the challenge, less than half remain when the official judging process starts. When a candidate accepts a nomination, she must be committed to the core otherwise she will not make it.
Having been closely involved with these awards for the past 21 years, it always amazes me to see what absolute top quality leadership is available in the female management and business owners corps, on a national level. And I only get to meet the cream of the crop.
When the leading contenders are such powerful women, imagine how deep is the pool of women who all contribute to build the house that is Namibia.
When the ugly reality of gender violence jumps off our TV screens, or scream for compassion from newspaper pages, it is easy to come up with a long list of excuses why our society apparently is so degenerate. Stereotyping is the norm in a feeble attempt to make sense of brutality and pain. Less than a week before the Businesswoman Awards, two young women were brutally murdered in Katutura. This only reinforced many of our ideas that society is inherently evil.
Then comes along an event that is completely and utterly at the other end of the spectrum, the Businesswoman Awards, where the calibre and stature of the candidates are so obvious and the bar they set themselves for their own achievement is so high, one has to pinch oneself during the Gala Banquet to be reminded that we are all living on the same planet. It is almost irreconcilable, cognitively, to think that the same society whence the evil sprouts, also produces the marvellous, gifted individuals that lead us in business, in management and in public administration.
Earlier this week, the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation participated in the High Level Security Council Debate on Women Peace and Security, as encapsulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of the year 2000.
After briefly expounding Namibia’s role in the adoption of this resolution, the deputy Prime Minister said “Notwithstanding the immense contribution of the resolution to the development of women agenda, the achievements over the past decade have not met expectations. Women are still excluded from peace processes and around the world, talented women peace builders face discrimination in legal, cultural, traditional practices which make even the most courageous women to think twice before stepping forward.”
This resolution has been written specifically to protect the rights of women in conflict situations on a larger scale but in my mind it is just as applicable to the senseless discrimination women continually suffer at community and household level. It also shows me that this is an ongoing process and as long as there is violence and deprivation, women will have to be protected.
This is why I am so enamoured when I meet the new Businesswoman Awards nominees. They show me clearly there is so much capability, so much compassion and a boundless supply of commitment. Women truly nurture and feed society, both at the highest level and at grassroots.
My congratulations to Rosalia Martins-Hausiku, the CEO of the MVA Fund for winning the Government & Community award, to Carol-Jean Rechter of Joe’s Beerhouse for winning the Business Owner award, to Baronice Hans for winning the Corporate & Private Sector award and to Tanya Stroh for winning the Young Businesswoman of the Year award.