Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Week 5: “Dogs and slaves are named by their masters, free men name themselves” [1].

By Brianna Mirabile & Hannah Corbin

This past week we were fortunate to hear from two speakers who challenged our preconceived notions of the connections between race, class, and gender equality among Namibia and South Africa. We focused on Namibia’s colonial history, the legacy of apartheid, and the Herero genocide which we then put into the current context of globalization and democracy. 

Our first speaker, Herbert Jauch, began his discussion by stating, “History is viewed in two ways; the first is to deny it ever happened, the second is to blame all current problems on historical events. Both takes are an atrocity to justice” [2]. He discussed how individuals within groups that had systematically been discriminated against have begun to succeed while the majority of such groups have remained left behind. While our focus of class was globalization, our speaker brought aspects surrounding Namibia’s independence into play that we had not yet realized. For example, as Namibia was becoming an independent nation state the so-called ‘West’ dominated world politics, economic systems, and approaches to social reform. This affected the Namibian people in a series of complex and multi-faceted ways; however, Jauch discussed the severe and lasting impacts on gender inequality and poverty in particular. He detailed the ways in which women’s work in the form of home-making was, and continues to be, devalued and purposely left out of the realm of a formal economic system. The work that women performed at home was classified as economically unproductive, and therefore worthless. In a capitalist global economy, if you fail to contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), then you simply fail to contribute. By only measuring economic growth in statistics and GDP, societies fail to recognize the human contribution in unpaid sectors. This then led into a discussion about the Basic Income Grant (BIG), which is an experimental policy that would provide every individual in Namibia, regardless of age, employment status, or class, a stipend of N$100 each month. While the program was successfully tested in a historically impoverished small community outside of Windhoek, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) campaigned against the program by publishing inaccurate data in order to diminish the program’s efficiency. The program takes a socialist approach to development and economic growth which greatly counters the hegemonic neo-liberal capitalist polices of the World Bank and IMF. In many of our classes this week, we have had many readings discussing the World Bank’s loan policy and forced structural adjustments in order to develop nations uniformly in a fashion that caters to a capitalist driven agenda. Eventually, the program lost the mass support it had gained and Jauch mentioned that what the program needs now is a radical push from the community, particularly from the youth of Namibia; which leads us to our next speaker, Professor Kerina. 

Our group with Professor Mburumba Kerina and his nephew after he spoke
to our history class about his role in Namibia's liberation struggle.
It’s not often you get the chance to meet someone who gave a country its name, personally knew the likes of Malcolm X and Maya Angelou, and helped start a political party that has remained in power for upwards of twenty years (all under the age of 30); however, on Thursday we were lucky enough to hear Professor  Mburumba Kerina discuss his life experiences in the larger context of Namibia’s struggle for independence [1]. He was not only inspiring, but he offered insight into what it was like to be directly involved in the liberation struggle at a great personal risk. While in college in the United States as the first student from Namibia, he petitioned to speak in front of the United Nations about what was happening in his home country. The South African government then tried to get him deported back to the country as South Africa was still in control of Namibia, which was known as South West Africa at the time, in order to prevent him from speaking. When he informed his adoptive Quaker family from Brooklyn of what was happening, he was taken to see then-Senator John F. Kennedy who personally offered him support and in effect, protection from the South African apartheid government. From then he continued activist work in the U.S. while contributing to the creation of the South West African’s People’s Organization (SWAPO) through secret communications. He went on to discuss the role of the youth in the current state of Namibia’s political and social atmosphere by saying that there needs to be more action. In his opinion today’s youth have lost the ability to connect, gain massive support, and create a movement. 

This was an interesting connection to development where we discussed generation X’s political activism. We discussed the question of whether or not it’s enough to change a status, like a post, or upload a new profile picture in the name of a cause. If that isn’t political activism then what does qualifies in an age of social media?

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at www.centerforglobaleducation.org.


[1] Kerina, Mburumba, activist and retired member of parliament who spoke to us in our history course on February 20th, 2014 .

[2] Jauch, Herbert, trade union activist who spoke to us in our development course on February 21st, 2014.

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