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Getting to know Ndiilo Nthengwe

SILENCE is the enemy of democracy, progress and justice.

It betrays victims of violent crimes and those suffering under social and economic disparity. Activists are the catalysts of change in a world where inequality flourishes under the hood of prejudiced government policies, lacklustre law enforcement and skewed social norms.

Ndiilo Nthengwe, through her work, voice and actions serves as an advocate for marginalised groups in Namibia and this week, The Namibian peels back the layers of the radical activist. Serving as the advocacy and communications officer for Out-Right Namibia; and communications associate for HCD Exchange Youth Leadership Hub, among holding positions in various other organisations, Nthengwe’s credentials speak for themselves.

She grew up in Windhoek, attending Orban Primary School and Windhoek High School before heading to the AFDA School of Business Innovation and Computer Technology in Cape Town, where she obtained her bachelor of commerce in business innovation degree.

“The origins of my activism can be traced to my childhood days. I have always been a very expressive and sensitive child, only to later find that this translated as my deep disdain and aversion towards all forms of injustice,” explains Nthengwe, adding that these principles followed her into adulthood, influencing the projects and movements she is involved in today.

Working towards a better Namibia for sexual and gender minorities through human rights-based organisation Out-Right Namibia, Nthengwe is also putting in work on a global scale as HERVoiceFund Ambassador under the Global Fund, which “aims to include adolescent girls and young women in decision making platforms to advance and improve the quality of their lives”, she says.

Nthengwe also highlighted the other institutions she is aligned with in her advocacy work: “I am the communications associate of HCDExchnage Youth Leadership Hub headquartered in Kenya. This organisation uses human-centred design to programme youth-related activities on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) across seven regions in the globe. I co-founded the Voices for Choices and Rights Coalition (VCRC) that was established to stand in solidarity and support the reproductive justice movement in Namibia after a petition was launched, calling for abortion law reform, and the full protection and prioritisation of women’s health, women’s rights and gender-diverse persons’ reproductive status in Namibia.”

She recently also participated in Hildegard Titus’ ‘You F*cked With The Wrong Generation’ photographic exhibition and a conference for LGBTQI+ activists in the Southern African Development Community region. Being the mouthpiece for disenfranchised communities comes with its own hardships, as the road to social reform is a rocky one. “The challenges are multi-pronged. Despite the efforts in the programmes I initiate, we are dealing with systemic tools of violence that are weaponised against adolescent girls, young women and gender-diverse persons that intend to disenfranchise us on all fronts.”

She further notes that implementing new ideas is not necessarily the main challenge, but rather the case of confronting “normalised culture that is enabled by gatekeepers to maintain the structural and systemic violence of womxn in all corners of society.” With the tough times, however, there is perpetually a break in the clouds. “It is always so rewarding to bridge the generational gap with meaningful and radical dialogue; this signals that a socio-conscious shift is erupting on all layers and at every level possible,” she says.

Nthengwe notes this is fundamental when considering that historically, our inherited traditions and cultures constituted the divide between “generations to reinforce power and monopolise harmful ideologies over the younger generation /the youth.” She says the situation of this power separation is being dismantled with all-out rejection, as the hierarchies are interrogated through conversations. “This is rewarding to witness.”

Fellow activist Lebbeus Hashikutuva admires Nthengwe’s determination in her work. “I’ve come to love Ndiilo for her uncompromising, radical and brilliant advocacy, not only in the civil society space, but also in her personal politics. She embodies an insatiable hunger for fairness, equality and justice, and Namibia needs to keep her eyes on her,” says Hashikutuva.

While Namibia has a long way to go regarding equality for sexual and gender minorities, Nthengwe envisions a better world. “It is known that even communities with minimal resources can absolutely embrace gender diversity and reach intersectional equality, and this is what I imagine Namibia might some day look like: a country, despite its many structural shortcomings, reaching gender parity and embracing all of humanity with fully liberated communities.”

– Jonathan Sasha on social media

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