Women’s Action for Development (WAD) is a Namibian-based non-profitmaking, non-partisan NGO and has been operational in Namibia since 1994. It is a Self-Help Organisation which follows a two-pronged program, namely the socio-economic and socio-political empowerment of rural women and men.
The organisation which has mainly been sponsored by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung since its establishment 18 years back is operational in all 13 regions of the country. Other key donors that are presently working with WAD on the empowerment of rural communities include the European Union; the Spanish Government, the American Ambassador’s Self-Help Program; as well as the organization’s Black Economic Empowerment partners, Old Mutual Namibia; Nedbank Namibia; Mutual and Federal Namibia; and Bidvest Namibia.
WAD is also attracting a strong component of unemployed young men to its programs. It presently has a membership of close to 50 000 women and men. However, thousands of other Namibians are being positively motivated and sensitized regarding the importance of self-employment as the answer to unemployment, through the organization’s well attended Field Days and graduation ceremonies, publications, educative programs and pronouncements through the media.
The organisation is outspoken, fearless and dynamic, with equally fearless and dynamic goals. It is well-structured, go-ahead and successful and interacts with the print and electronic media on an ongoing basis. The organization is consequently continuously visible and vocal in all media of the country.
A particular strength of WAD is that it attracts all community members across party-political, cultural and spiritual barriers because of its non-partisan disposition. The organization believes that people need to be united to fight poverty - which is one of the most profound social problems in the Namibian society. Although the national unemployment figure is rated at 51,2%, according to researchers, the unemployment rate among women is 60% and among the youth, a staggering 70%!
Like elsewhere in Africa, poverty is fuelled in Namibia by unemployment, large families, high degree of illiteracy, semi-literacy and a lack of unskilled labor force.
These characteristics of the Namibian society present themselves most starkly among the rural poor and in particular among rural women.
The establishment of Women's Action for Development (WAD) should be seen against this background, especially for rural women that count among the most deprived, socially and economically, in Namibia.
WAD emerged on the Namibian scene during 1994 with a strong sense of purpose to develop especially rural women to their fullest potential. The organisation’s Mission was clear - If the citizens of Namibia needed to improve their living standards which would culminate in running for public office to get into positions of power, they should be developed not only in the socio-economic field but in the socio-political field as well, to able them to fast-track women’s advancement in society.
WAD therefore, started to establish various training centres, and promoted the concept of developing women and men to their fullest potential to provide them with skills, through training, with the view to assist them to start their own small businesses and to lead them towards self-reliance.
The WAD programmes contributed greatly to the reduction of poverty through own effort and the rediscovery of own ingenuity, the provision of jobs in the regions, the restoration of human dignity, pride and self-confidence among the rural poor and thus, the building of peace and the prevention of conflict within the family circle and crime.
Through these initiatives a number of objectives were achieved:
- Beneficiaries started using their talents for the establishment of income-generating projects or to secure jobs in the labour market;
- They were further given an opportunity to demonstrate their own creativity, tenacity, an ability to work hard, etc in the face of adversity;
- They re-discovered their self-worth which in turn, fostered pride, self-confidence and human dignity;
- Women started contributing towards the income of their households which improved their food security and living standards;
- Above all, men started to join training programmes and projects, which in turn, had the positive spin-off that men were not that eager any more to leave their families to find jobs in the urban centres as before! This, of course, contributed to stronger and happier family ties in the regions while urbanisation was reduced in the process.
Needless to say, the successes with the establishment of income-generating projects, greatly boosted the realisation among Namibia's rural poor, that the alleviation of poverty lies within the ambit of their own ingenuity and efforts and not, in the first instance, to continuously opt for handouts.
WAD however, soon realised that the economic empowerment should go hand-in-hand with the second step, namely the socio-political empowerment of its members. This would also contribute to rural people becoming meaningful role-players in decision-making at all levels of Government, thus enhancing the total empowerment of the poor!