Rt. Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila overcame hardship and exile from Namibia as a child to become the fourth Prime Minister of her homeland on March 21, 2015. She has also served as a member of Africa’s SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) since 2002 and is still a member.
Her public work began after her graduation from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University when she entered into the services of President Sam Nujoma as a desk officer. She moved on to become Namibia’s Director General of the National Planning Commission, where she served for eight years, and then was appointed as Minister of Finance. Currently as Prime Minister, she assists Namibia’s former Prime Minister and now President Hage Geingob in the execution of basic government functions. The term of her appointment ends in 2020.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has been a fierce proponent of limited spending and worked for this cause so well that she successfully lead Namibia into financial success with its first financial surplus ever. This is even more impressive considering that Kuugongelwa-Amadhila took over Namibia’s purse strings during a difficult decline in GDP.
Deputy Prime Minister Nandi
Deputy Netumbo Nandi has served as Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s right hand since her appointment as Prime Minister and is also a member of SWAPO. Nandi was also exiled with SWAPO in the 70’s and worked at their Zambian headquarters during that time. While Nandi has filled many major administrative duties for her nation, she is very well-known for her work in equal rights. Most notable is her service as president of the Namibian National Women’s Organization for three years in the early 90s, along with many other female-focused governmental organizations.
The Battle for Gender Equality
Both Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Nandi have been very effective in their fight for general equality, working to force their nation to acknowledge the rights of women as a basic human right through legislation, within the working world and at home. To their credit, Namibia now ranks 14th in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, as opposed to 38th in 2006. This is even more significant as African nations have had only 8 female presidents among a mere handful of female heads of state.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila partially credits the success of Namibia’s gender revolution to SWAPO’s “zebra” system of politics, which requires that heads of state appoint persons of the opposite sex as their deputy so that neither women nor men find themselves disenfranchised within the government.
Looking Toward the Future
Notwithstanding Namibia’s great achievements, Amadhila and Nandi now plan to tackle climate change and high unemployment among youth while they continue their work toward equality. They also have their labors cut out for them with the German reparation process for the Herero and Namaqua genocide, which happened over a century ago but still leaves its scars on modern day Namibia’s cultural landscape.