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Namibian Women Empowering Themselves through Art

November 14, 2009

 the artwork of the women of Hope's Promise

With more than 35 percent of Namibians currently unemployed, many women are bearing the brunt of the burden of poverty (Millennium Development Goals).  As some men daily seek out temporary labor, women are usually left to support themselves and their families with few financial resources. Domestic violence is also an enormous problem in Namibia. An astonishing number of women find themselves trapped in abusive relationships because they do not have the money to escape the situation and survive on their own.

Fortunately, there are efforts being made across the country to help women generate their own income so that they can achieve a higher standard of living and become more independent.  Many women are using art as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty. Additionally, art gives them a way to express and empower themselves, leading to psychological as well as financial independence.As a student with the Center for Global Education’s study abroad program in Namibia, I have studied many social issues across the country. Fortunately, I have also witnessed amazing perseverance and determination by the people to change their lives for the better. Namibia is a country filled with beautiful art work, made even more beautiful by the fact that it is helping people to help themselves.

In Windhoek, the lively capital city of Namibia, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who recently began beading jewelry as a means of generating income. She is working under the auspices of an international organization called Hope’s Promise, which is working to help vulnerable children and orphans. Hope’s Promise has recently helped fund a new orphanage and other housing projects in the small town of Arandis. A significant amount of the funding for their projects is generated through the sale of hand-made jewelry by women.

When I walked into the Craft Center where the jewelry is sold, a young woman named Martie sat behind the counter with multi-colored beads splayed out in front of her. Surrounded by elaborately beaded necklaces and bracelets, she told me about her new found love for the art of jewelry making. Martie believes that she will continue to bead throughout the rest of her life.  It has given her the skills for meaningful employment now and into the future.  Additionally, it has given hope to the children of Arandis who are supported by Hope’s Promise’s work.

In many ways, the art that is created by women in Namibia has multiple purposes. First of all, making art is a creative outlet and a source of personal empowerment for the artists. Secondly, it is often used as a way of generating income, which is helping women to fight against endemic poverty and domestic violence.

Martie beading and selling her work at the Craft Center in Windhoek, Namibia

If you are interested in hearing more stories from students in Namibia, check out our program blog.

One Comment
  1. Sally Marie permalink
    November 18, 2009 7:05 pm

    Nice article, and great work you are doing Jaclyn. Thanks for your contributions, to this blog, to the women you report about and to the rest of the work you are doing in Namibia.

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