MVA Fund leads the way on women empowerment

By Fanuel Uugwanga
March 2013
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The National Gender Policy implemented in 2010 seeks to create an enabling environment for sectors to mainstream gender in line with National Development Plan directives, in order to address gender inequality and promote women empowerment in Namibia. As proposed in the Guiding Principles, programming for gender equality will be guided by a mainstreaming strategy for policies, programmes and structures of line Ministries and stakeholder institutions.

One of the corporate institutions making strides in the achievement of this national plan is the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA Fund). With women occupying 49% of the institution’s leadership positions, the MVA Fund certainly seems poised to be leading the way on women empowerment in the workplace. The MVA Fund’s Chief Business Strategy and Human Relations, Fanuel Uugwanga had a one-on-one with Prime Focus Magazine to shed light on the institution’s approach to women empowerment.

Why the focus on women?

First of all, as a service driven institution, the Fund is highly cognizant of the fact that its ability to respond to constantly evolving customer expectations lies in its employees. It is therefore important for us to create a conducive and enabling environment for growth and personal development for all our employees. Emphasis is thus placed on ensuring that all our employees are afforded equal opportunities to develop themselves and craft their career paths within the institution.

On the other hand, we are equally aware of the government’s resolve to improve the status of women in society and to eradicate injustices of the past. Hence, the Fund supports the goals set in the Affirmative Action Act to achieve a broader and more equitable representation and development opportunities of the designated groups including women at all levels employment.

To this end, we consciously create a vibrant and enabling business environment for women to grow and capitalise on their potential, thereby building a sustainable pool of adequately skilled women professionals. The primary focus is on developing their leadership skills in order for them to increase their effectiveness in their respective roles.

In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements. The Fund is an equal opportunity employer and remains committed to equal employment opportunities for all employees and job applicants. Equally the Fund appreciates the significant contribution of women to the society, from Motherhood to becoming corporate executives, business, spiritual and political Leaders.

In light of International Women’s Day what have you done as a Fund in the area of women empowerment, leadership and development and can you share with us some of your successes?

The Fund values the contribution of all employees and strives to provide equal employment opportunities and advancement consideration to all individuals based on job related qualifications and ability to perform the job regardless of race, colour, religion, age, status and gender. The former is crafted in the Fund Affirmative Action Policy. In accordance with the said Policy, women are represented at all levels of the organisational structure.

In terms of our successes, I’m immensely proud to say that the MVA Fund is possibly one of the institutions that employ a high number of women, in that women comprise 55% of the Fund overall workforce. In terms of empowerment as a measure of success, I would rather give the number of women at different levels of decision making within the MVA Fund Organisation Structure. In that regard, women also occupy 49% of the Fund’s leadership positions, broken down as follows:
Board of Directors: 2 (including the chairperson)
Executive Leadership: 1
Middle Management: 7
Supervisor Level: 11

Our Chief Operations Officer, Rosalia Martins-Hausiku serves on the Permanent National Gender Task Force Committee which Committee overall objective is to observe the implementation of national gender policies.

The Fund also has an Affirmative Action Committee which observes the recruitment process including promotions and transfers to ensure qualified and competent women applicants are not discriminated on the grounds of gender.

Equally, can you tell us some of the challenges you have faced in fostering this agenda?

We did not encounter much challenge fostering this agenda and the above information clearly demonstrates the Fund as a success story as far as women empowerment at the work place is concerned.

How are you reaching out to women who are on the lower end of market e.g. Meme Kapana, cross border traders and other informal traders?

Our mandate limits us to engage in specific business activities. However, our Procurement Policy fosters Black Economic Empowerment and one of the qualifying criteria for awarding tenders is the number of women shareholders of the service provider (tenderer). This has enabled the Fund to contribute to capacity building for women in the SME realm by creating an environment where they are directly supported, but according to the value and quality they bring to the table, and not only on the basis of gender.

How much have you invested and what programmes are in place to ensure sustainability?

As to how much, I can only say it is quite a reasonable amount of investment. Training and development is primarily focused on employees with high potential to accelerate movement of such employees into the required levels, and to empower them with the necessary skills and competencies.

How best can we as a nation support women empowerment, leadership and development?

The approach should be simple: If a woman has the necessary skills and competencies required to perform the identified task, they should be given the opportunity. If she demonstrates great leadership potential but lacks the required skills, all efforts should be made to empower her with the necessary skills. Women too have the capacity to lead, but they are lagging behind because they are not afforded opportunities to prove their value and the significant contribution they can make to the development of our nation, be it in the public or private sector. We must also start looking at women as agents or catalysts of development at all levels

In light of the escalating gender-based violence, I believe that it is time for us as a nation to act and stop the widespread violation of women’s rights in Namibia. This calls for swift action and commitment from us all to fight this evil in order to guarantee a violence-free environment for Namibian women and children. PF