Namibia: Sebatian Oaseb

Date: October 4, 2018
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Disability is not an inability. I am a wheel chair bound person of disability. I am proud about it. I do not shy away from duties that able-bodied persons do. I compete in all areas, from politics to sports and many other domains. To my surprise, when I arrived in Windhoek for the SADC Gender Awards summit, I was the only person in a wheel chair. All the other entrants were able bodied. Still, yes, it was a disability friendly event.

I had participated in some small awards ceremonies before, but these were high-class, competitive awards. My disability did not count there (at the awards), we were all equal. I scooped a prize there, and was elevated to the Regional summit. The country manager called upon all winners to get their travel documents as soon as possible. The main headache started there. The travel date was announced by Gender Links Namibia. The Outjo Council assisted me with getting my passport in time. On Sunday 21 April 2013, I arrived at the Hosea Kutako International Airport in the early morning hours, in time for check-in. I went through immigration and proceeded to the departure lounge. The boarding time was announced and a very friendly air hostess wheeled me through to the waiting plane.

The process was gentle, something I did not expect. I got my seat before all the other passengers. I asked the hostess a few questions, and they were all kind and ensured me that it was very safe to travel and that my comfort is guaranteed. The battle of uncertainty, fear and frustration started. As a believer, the first thing was to thank the All Mighty God for making this journey a safe one for all, and especially me who had little chance to survive any difficult encounter. I thank Gender Links for challenging my disability, by giving me a rare, golden opportunity to fly and meet many people like me. I kept my fear and frustration close to my heart. I pretended that I was an experienced traveller, but that was not going to work.

It is not an ordinary experience with Gender Links. I heard a lot about Gender Links, but had not met face to face with their staff before. Gender Links (GL) came to my town (Outjo) on many occasions, but I was not invited to their event. One day, a certain gender activist came and introduced herself to me as the Chairperson of the GBV Committee of the town. Her name is Brigitte Hoarases. She told me she has participated in all GL workshops and was generous as well as skilled. She wanted me to join the Gender Links community. I agreed without hesitation. Hoarases introduced me to the concept of the case studies and gave me some material to read. The GBV chairperson assisted me with my case study. The case study was sent to Gender Links Namibia, and they assisted me further. I have realised that GL is very concerned with gender balance, and is also a disability friendly organisation. First I thought they would not allow me to come to Windhoek, let alone go to South Africa for the regional Summit. My fears were proven to be false. All travel and accommodation arrangements were done in advance.

The Hotel Indaba was excellent. I stayed in a room that was well equipped with all things that a disabled person may need; then came the day that the Namibia delegation had to meet their council donor from NEPAD. It was my first time again to sit in a donor meeting. The most striking moment was when the Chief Executive officer of GL, Colleen Lowe Morna sung one of our songs, in one of our local languages. This gave me hope and trust that GL is a people-centred organisation. I wished to meet people like me, and I was not disappointed. I would like to appeal to GL to be even more inclusive next year. I will be there again.

I am now a different person now after the two summits. Some organisations think these people will cost them a lot of money in terms of travel. But this was not my personal experience. I was treated like any other entrant. Had it not been for GL, I would have never have flown out of the borders of Namibia. Meeting new people and visiting new countries was a great thing. I only knew other countries by reading about them in books when I was in school, because I studied geography. It was a once in a life time opportunity to visit them and chat to some people at the summit. Countries like Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar, I met people from them for the first time. The exciting and good moments were when my country scooped some of the awards. It made me proud. Even if I did not win a prize myself, I was a victor at that time. I wished I could stand up and dance with others. I celebrated all these victories with all winners, including non-Namibians.

There will be always a bigger picture for Gender links. The organisation makes sure that its representation is felt all over, especially in my country. These engagements help people to connect with each other. Networks are always good, and sharing experiences and best practices just adds to and improves our knowledge, capacity and skills. I am still young, and will contribute to that knowledge base. I speak for all people of disability, because they were not widely represented at either Summit. Adding our voices to the bigger picture will help Gender Links achieve its goals.