Chinese-invested mining company empowers young Namibians through hygiene, education

Community volunteers inspect sanitation facilities in Nalitungwe informal settlement in Windhoek, Namibia, Nov. 20, 2020. (Xinhua/Ndalimpinga Iita)
Community volunteers inspect sanitation facilities in Nalitungwe informal settlement in Windhoek, Namibia, Nov. 20, 2020. (Xinhua/Ndalimpinga Iita)

An initiative supported by Rossing Uranium, a Chinese-invested company, is empowering young learners in the region through hygiene and education.

At Willem Borchard Primary School in Okombahe in Erongo region, west Namibia, Elfriede Kowases, a grade-five learner beamed with delight as she progressively made a reusable sanitary pad.

Not only was she pleased with her newly acquired skills of how to make reusable pads, but also elated because the product would benefit other learners in need.

“I learned how to make reusable pads, and the type of cloth I can make it with, which is something I did not know,” she said on Sunday.

Kowases is one of the five learners trained by AnnPads Namibia’s founder Hermine Bertolini on how to make reusable pads from cloth with the support of Rossing Uranium.

The partnership includes a donation of pads and training for five girls at the school on how to make their sanitary pads. The five learners would train their peers.

The school has 104 girls in grades five to seven, which the pubescent group the Rossing Uranium initiative focused on.

The training and needlework covered aspects of menstrual hygiene, dexterity as well as value addition. It has since imparted new skills to the learners.

Complementary, the initiative helped the learners realize their dreams to be creative.

“I learned how to knit pads. I never thought I would know how to hold a needle,” she said.

Meanwhile, trained learners are ecstatic about imparting the skills to their peers.

“I will teach fellow girls how to make the pads, how to hold the needle, type of cloth to use and also how to keep the pads in a safe place,” according to Kowases.

Furthermore, the responsibilities are set to catapult the learners into leadership. Accordingly, Ndapewa Goliath, who is in grade six, sees her involvement in the project more in a leadership outlook.

“We will first get five more girls, whom we will teach how to use these reusable sanitary pads, then later teach them how to make the pads,” Goliath added.

Moreover, the project is seen as a broader social empowerment project, which would relieve parents and guardians from cost towards sanitary products, specifically pads. It would also restore the dignity of the community.

Rossing Uranium’s manager for partnerships, communication and external affairs, Daylight Ekandjo, said the donation and partnership is in support of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture’s initiative to keep the girl child in school.

“We read reports of how the girl child continues to stay away from school during their menstrual cycle. These continuous reports have prompted us to also contribute to the government’s efforts of helping the girl child stay in school and ultimately complete their education,” Ekandjo said.

Hermine Bertolini, said they aim to reach the girl child mostly in the rural area and empower them through such initiatives.

“I am pleased to have partnered with Rossing on this initiative, as this also helped us educate the boy child through our presentations on menstruation,” Bertolini said.

As a ripple effect, the school and community are set to yield multiple benefits from the imitative.

Mercy Revival Geingos, who is in grade six, was also trained. Geingos said that she learned how to make pads and hopes her efforts would earn money for the school by making these pads.

The school can sell them and generate an income for other school support projects.

Elias Uusiku, principal of Willem Borchard Primary School, said the school is honoured for being beneficiaries of Rossing’s outreach programme.

“We appreciate this initiative, and that our school is benefiting from the programme. It means a lot to us,” he said, adding that Rossing should continue investing in communities through the outreach programmes.

Rossing Uranium, which is majority-owned by China National Uranium Corporation Limited (CNUC), is one of Namibia’s three uranium producing mines.